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Update on the latest business

January 16, 2019

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks rise

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are rising in midday trading on Wall Street following strong results from major banks including Goldman Sachs and Bank of America.

Technology and consumer-focused companies also traded higher Wednesday.

United Continental soared 6.1 percent after its latest quarterly results beat analysts’ estimates.

Britain’s FTSE 100 stock index slipped after Parliament rejected the Brexit deal negotiated by Prime Minister Theresa May and European leaders.

Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.73 percent.

SEARS-SURVIVAL

Sears staves off liquidation, stores to remain open

NEW YORK (AP) — Sears will live on— at least for now.

The company’s chairman and largest shareholder, Eddie Lampert, won a bankruptcy auction for Sears, averting liquidation of the iconic chain, according to a source familiar with the negotiations. The person agreed to speak on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the negotiation publicly.

Lampert is the only one to put out a bid for the whole company. The 56-year-old billionaire had sweetened his bid to more than $5 billion over the last few days through an affiliate of his hedge fund ESL. Details of the final terms couldn’t be learned.

The plan still must be approved by the bankruptcy judge in White Plains, New York, who is presiding over the court case.

Lampert, who steered the company into bankruptcy protection, may be able to keep the roughly 400 remaining Sears stores open, meaning tens of thousands of jobs have been saved, at least for now.

Whether Sears, founded 132 years ago as a mail order watch business, can survive in the Amazon era remains questionable.

SHOPKO BANKRUPTCY

Shopko files for bankruptcy protection

ASHWAUBENON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin-based retail chain Shopko Stores has filed for bankruptcy protection as it makes plans to close more stores.

The company says excessive debt and ongoing competitive pressure are forcing it to seek protection from creditors. Shopko is reporting assets of less than $1 billion and liabilities of between $1 billion and $10 billion.

Shopko says it plans to continue operating through Chapter 11 reorganization after securing $480 million in financing from a group of lenders led by Wells Fargo Bank. The financing will allow Shopko to continue to pay employees, vendors and suppliers.

The retailer, headquartered near Green Bay, says it will close 38 more stores. Last month, it announced plans to close about 40 of its more than 300 stores across the country.

HYUNDAI-KIA-FIRES

Kia to recall vehicles to fix problem that can cause fires

DETROIT (AP) — Kia says it will ignore the partial U.S. government shutdown and recall more than 68,000 vehicles to fix a fuel pipe problem that can cause engine fires. The problem stemmed from previous recall repairs due to engine failures.

The Korean automaker and its larger affiliate Hyundai have been dogged by fire and engine failure complaints from across the nation. They’re both under investigation by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The agency, which oversees recalls, is mostly closed because of the shutdown.

Kia also says it will do a “product improvement campaign” to install sensors in 1.7 million vehicles that will alert drivers of possible engine failures and send the cars into a slow-speed “limp” mode if problems are detected.

FORD MOTOR-OUTLOOK

Ford puts 2018 adjusted profit outlook below Street view

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) — Ford is calling for 2018 adjusted earnings of $1.30 per share, slightly below Wall Street’s view, because of challenges including higher commodity and warranty costs and a business decline in China.

Analysts predict earnings of $1.33 per share, according to FactSet.

Looking ahead, Ford Motor Co. Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks said in a statement that the automobile maker sees the potential for year-over-year improvement in revenue in 2019.

Last week Ford announced it was cutting jobs in Europe as it reshapes its business to focus on more profitable commercial trucks and SUVs while shifting production to electric cars over the longer term.

SENATE-EPA CHIEF

Acting EPA boss says he’s deregulation champion

WASHINGTON (AP) — Acting Environmental Protection Agency chief Andrew Wheeler described himself as a champion of deregulation and the environment at his confirmation hearing Wednesday, even as a leading Democrat called him “just as extreme” as predecessor Scott Pruitt.

The Republican-controlled Senate Environment and Public Works Committee was considering Wheeler’s nomination as agency administrator. Wheeler began his testimony Wednesday over the chants of environmental protesters, who shouted “Shut Down Wheeler” in the committee room and the hallway outside.

The EPA under Wheeler has moved forward on the Trump administration’s deregulatory aims since Pruitt resigned in July amid ethics scandals. That includes easing the mileage standards that cars and trucks will have to meet, relaxing measures on climate-changing carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants and removing millions of miles of wetlands and waterways from federal protections, among other changes.

The committee chairman, Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, called Wheeler “very well qualified” to take the job.

CELLPHONE TRACKING-CONGRESS QUESTIONS

House Republicans question telecoms on location tracking

NEW YORK (AP) — Several House Republicans are asking T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon and Sprint how they share their users’ cellphone location data, citing a recent report that telecoms are selling that information to shadowy companies without customer knowledge.

The lawmakers said they are troubled because it is not the first report of these types of data-sharing practices. They also sent letters to the data brokers mentioned in last week’s Motherboard report, Zumigo and Microbilt.

Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., the chairman of the House energy and commerce committee, says that because of the government shutdown, the Federal Communications Commission chairman would not brief House staff on what the agency plans to do.

An FCC spokesman says it will continue to investigate wireless carriers’ handling of location information when its operations are back to normal.

BREXIT

May government faces no-confidence vote after Brexit defeat

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Theresa May defied calls to resign as she faced a no-confidence vote Wednesday, a day after Parliament rejected her Brexit deal by a historic margin and unleashed a power struggle over control of Britain’s planned withdrawal from the European Union.

May was battling to save her job after staking her political reputation on winning support for the divorce agreement she has negotiated with the EU over the last two years. That it would lose was widely expected, but the scale of the rout — 432 votes to 202, the biggest defeat for a government in British parliamentary history — was devastating for May’s leadership and her Brexit deal.

Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn responded with a no-confidence motion, and urged the government to “do the right thing and resign.”

The government is likely to survive Wednesday’s vote with support from May’s Conservative Party and its Northern Irish ally, the Democratic Unionist Party.

EUROPE-UPS-TNT

EU court rules annuls regulator move to block UPS-TNT merger

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union’s top court says a decision by anti-trust regulators to block a merger between U.S. delivery giant UPS and Dutch firm TNT must be annulled.

The European Court of Justice confirmed Wednesday a lower court finding that UPS’s rights to defense were infringed by the European Commission, which polices competition issues.

The Luxembourg-based ECJ says the blocking decision should be annulled if UPS can show that “it would have had the opportunity better to defend itself” if it had full access to Commission analysis of the merger.

The Commission said the planned merger would restrict express deliveries of small packages in Europe by reducing the number of players in the market, and so drive up prices.

But the EU’s General Court annulled that decision last March.

SUPREME COURT-LIQUOR SALES

Justices appear ready to void Tennessee alcohol sales law

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court appears ready to strike down a Tennessee provision that requires people to live in the state for two years before obtaining a license to sell alcohol.

Several justices said the restriction unconstitutionally discriminates against out-of-state economic interests, despite strong state interests in regulating liquor sales.

A ruling invalidating the residency requirement would be a victory for a family that bought a Memphis liquor store and moved to Tennessee from Utah in search of a healthier climate for their disabled adult daughter.

Justice Neil Gorsuch was among justices who worried that getting rid of the residency law would be help enable online alcohol sales with no state regulation. Gorsuch told a lawyer for a chain of stores that “you want to be the Amazon of liquor.”

YOUTUBE-DANGEROUS PRANKS

YouTube revises policy, bans dangerous prank videos

SAN BRUNO, Calif. (AP) — YouTube is trying to prevent otherwise bright people from doing dangerous things.

The video-sharing network owned by Google is cracking down on harmful or dangerous pranks.

Updated policies no longer allow challenges that present “an apparent risk of death” and ban content featuring children “participating in dangerous challenges that pose an imminent risk of injury or bodily harm.”

YouTube also says it is drawing the line on content that “intends to incite violence or encourage dangerous or illegal activities” that have a risk of serious harm or death. They include bomb making or pranks that put people in physical danger.

A recent “Bird Box challenge” featured videos of people engaging in activities while blindfolded.

People also were sickened in a challenge that involved eating Tide detergent pods.

FISERV-FIRST DATA-ACQUISITION

Fiserv buys First Data for $22B, creating fintech giant

NEW YORK (AP) — Fiserv is buying First Data in a $22 billion all-stock deal, creating a giant player in the payments and financial technology sector.

First Data shareholders will receive about .30 shares of Fiserv for every share of First Data they own, according to the deal announced Wednesday, a premium of about 29 percent.

The deal will leave Fiserv shareholders with 57.5 percent of the combined company. First Data shareholders will own the remaining 42.5 percent.

Fiserv, based in Brookfield, Wisconsin, specializes in financial services technology related to electronic payments and processing. First Data, based in New York, says it facilitates $2.4 trillion in transactions each year.

The deal was approved by the boards of both companies and is expected to close in the second half of the year, pending regulatory approval.

SINCLAIR-NEW STREAMING SERVICE

Sinclair debuts streaming service for its local TV stations

NEW YORK (AP) — Sinclair Broadcast, the nation’s largest owner of television stations, is launching a free, ad-supported streaming service.

It will draw on local news, sports and other programs from the 191 TV stations it owns in 89 U.S. markets. The service will also have separate digital channels for movies, sports and even poker and NASA TV.

The company joins an ever-growing list of streaming service players, including Netflix, Amazon and upcoming offerings from Disney and NBCUniversal.

Stirr comes just months after Sinclair’s $3.9 billion bid for Tribune Media collapsed because of regulatory concerns. That ended a bid to create a massive media juggernaut that could have rivaled the reach of Fox News.

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