But it’s not clear how much of the crime is organized. Matthew Fernandez, 49, who works at a King Soopers in Broomfield, Colo., said he was stunned when he watched a thief walk out with a cart full of makeup, laundry detergent and meat and drive off in a Mercedes-Benz S.U.V.

“The ones you think are going to steal are not the ones doing it,” he said. “From high class to low class, they are all doing it.”

Ms. Barry often gives money to the homeless people who come into her store, so they can buy food. She also knows the financial pressures on people with lower incomes as the cost of living soars.

When people steal, she said, the company can write off the loss. But those losses mean less money for workers.

“That is part of my raise and benefits that is walking out the door,” she said. “That is money we deserve.”

Ella Koeze contributed reporting.

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Companies Scramble to Work Out Policies Related to Employee Abortions

There is no clear blueprint for corporate engagement on abortion. After numerous companies came forward to announce that they would cover travel expenses for their employees to get abortions, executives have had to move swiftly to both sort out the mechanics of those policies and explain them to a work force concerned about confidentiality and safety.

Few companies have commented directly on the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which ended nearly 50 years of federal abortion rights. Far more have responded by expanding their health care policies to cover travel and other expenses for employees who can’t get abortions close to home, now that the procedure is banned in at least eight states with other bans set to soon take effect. About half the country gets its health care coverage from employers, and the wave of new employer commitments has raised concerns from some workers about privacy.

“It’s a doomsday scenario if individuals have to bring their health care choices to their employers,” said Dina Fierro, a global vice president at the cosmetics company Nars, echoing a concern that many workers have expressed on social media in recent days.

Popular Information. Match Group declined to comment.

tweet: “I believe CEOs have a responsibility to take care of their employees — no matter what.”

Lora Kelley contributed reporting.

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Stocks Rally Out of Bear Market Territory, but End Lower for a 7th Week

Janet L. Yellen, the Treasury secretary, said high food and energy prices were creating “stagflationary effects” — the combination of high inflation and a stagnating economy. China’s economy, the world’s second-largest after that of the United States, is laboring under the government’s strict pandemic lockdowns. Before the war in Ukraine and Covid’s resurgence in China, the International Monetary Fund was projecting global growth of 4.4 percent this year. Now its forecast is 3.6 percent.

Wall Street had been expecting that torrid consumer demand would have to slow at some point. Government stimulus checks that provided Americans with billions in spending money during the pandemic stopped long ago. The hope of both the Trump and Biden administrations was that the economy could eventually be weaned off the stimulus and that consumer demand would stay relatively strong.

But inflation, which has risen faster and remained more persistent than many investors and even the Fed initially expected, has thrown the recovery into doubt.

Unemployment is approaching the lowest rate in decades, and the economy has regained nearly 95 percent of the 22 million jobs lost at the height of coronavirus lockdowns. Average hourly earnings in the U.S. rose 5.5 percent in the year through April, but many of those gains are being eroded by inflation. Over that same period, prices rose 8.3 percent.

“The government just turbocharged the economy, and we were partying on buying goods,” said Scott Mushkin, the founder of R5 Capital, a retail-focused consulting and financial research firm. “People wondered what the hangover would be like. We have never seen anything like this.”

To be sure, some retailers said that not every consumer was pulling back or shifting spending. Walmart said better-off shoppers continued to spend freely on bigger-ticket items like patio furniture, and Target said it was not seeing a broad retreat in spending, either. Home Depot, which has benefited from a pandemic remodeling boom, said it was seeing no big slowdown in business.

But Mr. Sole of UBS worries that if prices continue to climb, higher-income consumers will eventually shift their spending, too.

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Wall St rises on gains in banks, strong retail sales data

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  • Walmart slides after cutting earnings forecast
  • April retail sales rise in line with estimates
  • S&P 500 +2.02%, Nasdaq +2.76%, Dow +1.34%

May 17 (Reuters) – Wall Street finished sharply higher on Tuesday, lifted by Apple, Tesla and other megacap growth stocks after strong retail sales in April eased worries about slowing economic growth.

Ten of the 11 major S&P sector indexes advanced, with financials (.SPSY), materials (.SPLRCM), consumer discretionary (.SPLRCD) and technology (.SPLRCT) all gaining more than 2%.

Investors were cheered by data showing U.S. retail sales increased 0.9% in April as consumers bought motor vehicles amid an improvement in supply and frequented restaurants. read more

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Recently punished shares of Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O), Apple Inc (AAPL.O), Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) and Amazon (AMZN.O) gained between 2% and 5.1%, driving the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq higher.

Tuesday’s broad rally followed weeks of selling on the U.S. stock market that last week saw the S&P 500 sink to its lowest level since March 2021.

“The largest pockets of stocks that investors tend to buy have been essentially beaten up. They’re either in correction or bear market territory,” said Sylvia Jablonski, chief investment officer of Defiance ETF. “I think investors are looking at these opportunities to buy on the dip, and I suspect that today is a good day to do that.”

The S&P 500 Banks index (.SPXBK) jumped 3.8%, with Citigroup (C.N) climbing almost 8% after Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway (BRKa.N) disclosed a nearly $3 billion investment in the U.S. lender.

Another set of economic data showed industrial production accelerated 1.1% last month, higher than estimates of 0.5%, and faster than a 0.9% advance in March. read more

“This is consistent with continued economic growth in the second quarter and not a recession underway,” said Bill Adams, chief economist for Comerica Bank in Dallas.

The U.S. Federal Reserve will “keep pushing” to tighten U.S. monetary policy until it is clear inflation is declining, Fed Chair Jerome Powell said at an event on Tuesday. read more

Traders are pricing in an 85% chance of a 50-basis point rate hike in June.

The S&P 500 climbed 2.02% to end the session at 4,088.85 points.

The Nasdaq gained 2.76% to 11,984.52 points, while Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1.34% to 32,654.59 points.

S&P 500’s busiest trades

Underscoring Wall Street’s recent volatility, the S&P 500 has gained or lost 2% or more in a session some 39 times so far in 2022, compared to 24 times in all of 2021.

Walmart Inc (WMT.N) tumbled 11.4% after the retail giant cut its annual profit forecast, signaling a hit to its margins. That marked the biggest one-day percentage drop for Walmart’s stock since 1987. read more

Retailers Costco (COST.O), Target (TGT.N) and Dollar Tree (DLTR.O) fell between 0.8% and 3.2%.

United Airlines Holdings Inc (UAL.O) gained 7.9% after the carrier lifted its current-quarter revenue forecast, boosting shares of Delta Air (DAL.N), American Airlines (AAL.O) and Spirit Airlines (SAVE.N). read more

A positive first-quarter earnings season has been overshadowed by worries about the conflict in Ukraine, soaring inflation, COVID-19 lockdowns in China and aggressive policy tightening by central banks.

The S&P 500 is down about 14% so far in 2022, and the Nasdaq is off around 23%, hit by tumbling growth stocks.

U.S.-listed Chinese stocks jumped on hopes that China will ease its crackdown on the technology sector. read more

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 2.92-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 3.19-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted one new 52-week high and 30 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 24 new highs and 126 new lows.

Volume on U.S. exchanges was 12.0 billion shares, compared with a 13.3 billion average over the last 20 trading days.

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Reporting by Amruta Khandekar and Devik Jain in Bengaluru, and Noel Randewich in Oakland, Calif.; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Lisa Shumaker

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Corporate America Doesn’t Want to Talk Abortion, but It May Have To

Even more recently, corporate leaders were reminded of how fraught engagement can be. Disney, for example, faced internal backlash when its leadership declined to take a strong stance against Florida’s Parental Rights in Education act, which critics often refer to as the “Don’t Say Gay” law. But when the chief executive did take a public stance, the company was crucified on social media, and the state revoked its special tax benefits.

Now, with the expected demise of the country’s landmark abortion law, corporate leaders are confronting the hottest of hot-button issues. In a Pew Research poll in 2021, 59 percent of Americans said they believed that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 39 percent said it should be illegal in all or most cases. People on all sides of the issue feel strongly about it, with nearly a quarter of Americans saying they will vote only for candidates who share their views on abortion, according to Gallup.

That all adds up to many reasons a company would want to avoid making any statement on abortion — and all the more reason that customers and workers could come to see it as necessary. A company’s position on the end of Roe could have repercussions for how it hires in an increasingly competitive labor market, and how customers view its brand.

“Abortion is a health care issue, health care is an employer issue, so abortion is an issue for employers,” said Carolyn Witte, chief executive of Tia, a women’s health care company. On Tuesday, Tia announced that it would provide medication abortions through its telemedicine platform in states where it operated and where doing so was legal.

For some major companies that have been known to weigh in on political and social issues, this week has been unusually quiet. Walmart, Disney, Meta, PwC, Salesforce, JPMorgan Chase, ThirdLove, Patagonia, Kroger and Business Roundtable were among the companies and organizations that declined to comment or take a position, or did not respond to requests for comment about whether they plan to make public statements about their stance on abortion. Hobby Lobby, which in 2014 brought a suit to the Supreme Court challenging whether employer-provided health care had to include contraception, made no public statement and did not respond to a request for comment.

Other companies did wade in. United Talent Agency said it would reimburse travel expenses for employees affected by abortion bans. Airbnb said it would ensure its employees “have the resources they need to make choices about their reproductive rights.” Levi Strauss & Company, which has said its benefits plan will reimburse employees who have to travel out of state for health care services such as abortions, said abortion was a business issue.

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For Retail Workers, Omicron’s Impact Isn’t Just About Health

Long checkout lines. Closed fitting rooms. Empty shelves. Shortened store hours.

Plus the dread of contracting the coronavirus and yet another season of skirmishes with customers who refuse to wear masks.

A weary retail work force is experiencing the fallout from the latest wave of the pandemic, with a rapidly spreading variant cutting into staffing.

While data shows that people infected with the Omicron variant are far less likely to be hospitalized than those with the Delta variant, especially if they are vaccinated, many store workers are dealing with a new jump in illness and exposures, grappling with shifting guidelines around isolation and juggling child care. At the same time, retailers are generally not extending hazard pay as they did earlier in the pandemic and have been loath to adopt vaccine or testing mandates.

“We had gotten to a point here where we were comfortable, it wasn’t too bad, and then all of a sudden this new variant came and everybody got sick,” said Artavia Milliam, who works at H&M in Hudson Yards in Manhattan, which is popular with tourists. “It’s been overwhelming, just having to deal with not having enough staff and then twice as many people in the store.”

said last week that it would shorten store hours nationally on Mondays through Thursdays for the rest of the month. At least 20 Apple Stores have had to close in recent weeks because so many employees had contracted Covid-19 or been exposed to someone who had, and others have curtailed hours or limited in-store access.

At a Macy’s in Lynnwood, Wash., Liisa Luick, a longtime sales associate in the men’s department, said, “Every day, we have call-outs, and we have a lot of them.” She said the store had already reduced staff to cut costs in 2020. Now, she is often unable to take breaks and has fielded complaints from customers about a lack of sales help and unstaffed registers.

“Morale could not be lower,” said Ms. Luick, who is a steward for the local unit of the United Food and Commercial Workers union. Even though Washington has a mask mandate for indoor public spaces, “we get a lot of pushback, so morale is even lower because there’s so many people who, there’s no easy way to say this, just don’t believe in masking,” she added.

Store workers are navigating the changing nature of the virus and trying their best to gauge new risks. Many say that with vaccinations and boosters, they are less fearful for their lives than they were in 2020 — the United Food and Commercial Workers union has tracked more than 200 retail worker deaths since the start of the pandemic — but they remain nervous about catching and spreading the virus.

local legislation.

More broadly, the staffing shortages have put a new spotlight on a potential vaccine-or-testing mandate from the Biden administration, which major retailers have been resisting. The fear of losing workers appears to be looming large, especially now.

While the retail industry initially cited the holiday season rush for its resistance to such rules, it has more recently pointed to the burden of testing unvaccinated workers. After oral arguments in the case on Friday, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority expressed skepticism about whether the Biden administration had legal authority to mandate that large employers require workers to be vaccinated.

The National Retail Federation, a major industry lobbying group, said in a statement last week that it “continues to believe that OSHA exceeded its authority in promulgating its vaccine mandate.” The group estimated that the order would require 20 million tests a week nationally, based on external data on unvaccinated workers, and that “such testing capacity currently does not exist.”

When the top managers at Mr. Waugh’s Stop & Shop store began asking employees whether they were vaccinated in preparation for the federal vaccine mandates that could soon take effect, he said, a large number expressed concern to him about being asked to disclose that information.

“It was concerning to see that so many people were distressed,” he said, though all of the employees complied.

Ms. Luick of Macy’s near Seattle said that she worked with several vocal opponents of the Covid-19 vaccines and that she anticipated that at least some of her colleagues would resign if they were asked to provide vaccination status or proof of negative tests.

Still, Macy’s was among major employers that started asking employees for their vaccination status last week ahead of the Supreme Court hearing on Friday and said it might require proof of negative tests beginning on Feb. 16.

“Our primary focus at this stage is preparing our members for an eventual mandate to ensure they have the information and tools they need to manage their work force and meet the needs of their customers,” said Brian Dodge, president of the Retail Industry Leaders Association, which includes companies like Macy’s, Target, Home Depot, Gap and Walmart.

As seasonal Covid-19 surges become the norm, unions and companies are looking for consistent policies. Jim Araby, director of strategic campaigns for the food and commercial workers union in Northern California, said the retail industry needed to put in place more sustainable supports for workers who got ill.

For example, he said, a trust fund jointly administered by the union and several employers could no longer offer Covid-related sick days for union members.

“We have to start treating this as endemic,” Mr. Araby said. “And figuring out what are the structural issues we have to put forward to deal with this.”

Kellen Browning contributed reporting.

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Why Silicon Valley Can’t Escape Elizabeth Holmes

SAN JOSE, Calif. — In 2016, start-up founders sang, “Theranos doesn’t represent, we are better,” in a holiday video created by the venture capital firm First Round Capital.

Over the next few years, several columnists wrote that Silicon Valley shouldn’t be blamed for Theranos.

Last month, Keith Rabois, a venture capitalist, said on Twitter that articles connecting Theranos with Silicon Valley culture contained “more fabrication than anything ever uttered by Trump.”

The technorati in Silicon Valley and beyond have long tried to separate themselves from Theranos, the blood testing start-up in Palo Alto, Calif., that was exposed for lying about its abilities. But the fraud trial of the company’s founder, Elizabeth Holmes, has shown that just as Bernard Madoff was a creature of Wall Street and Enron represented the get-rich-quick excesses of the 1990s, Theranos and its leader were very much products of Silicon Valley.

a jury found the entrepreneur guilty of four of 11 counts of fraud, starkly underlined her participation in Silicon Valley’s culture.

Ms. Holmes, 37, used the mentorship and credibility of tech industry big shots like Larry Ellison, a co-founder of Oracle, and Don Lucas, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, to raise money from others. She lived in Atherton, Calif., amid Silicon Valley’s elite and was welcomed into their circles.

She also used the start-up playbook of hype, exclusivity and a “fear of missing out” to win over later investors. She embodied start-up hustle culture by optimizing her life for the maximum amount of work. She dismissed the “haters” and anything that interfered with her vision of a better world. She parroted mission-driven technobabble. She even dressed like Steve Jobs.

No industry wants to be judged only by its worst actors. And many venture capitalists who heard Ms. Holmes’s impossibly lofty claims didn’t fall for them. But if anyone in Silicon Valley was suspicious of her proclamations, none spoke publicly about it until after things went south.

said in a hearing in May before the trial began.

At its best, Silicon Valley is optimistic. At its worst, it is so naïve it believes its own hogwash. Throughout her trial, Ms. Holmes’s lawyers argued she was simply a wide-eyed believer. Any statements that weren’t entirely truthful, they said, were about the future. It was what investors wanted to hear, they said.

“They weren’t interested in today or tomorrow or next month,” Ms. Holmes testified. “They were interested in what kind of change we could make.”

Soon after Theranos got started in 2003, Ms. Holmes used her vision of the future to win over investors and advisers like Mr. Ellison and Mr. Lucas. Mr. Lucas, who was chairman of Theranos’s board until 2013, was involved with more than 20 investment vehicles that backed Theranos. Those included his son’s venture firm, Lucas Venture Group; another vehicle, PEER Venture Partners; and trusts and foundations associated with members of his family.

Bad Blood,” a book by John Carreyrou, a former Wall Street Journal reporter.

Brian Grossman, an investor at the heath care-focused hedge fund PFM Health Sciences, learned about Theranos through Thomas Laffont, a co-founder of Coatue Management, a prominent investment fund with a San Francisco presence. In an email that was part of the court filings, Mr. Laffont gushed that Theranos had “one of the most impressive boards I’ve ever seen” and said Mr. Grossman’s firm should let him know “ASAP” if it was interested in an introduction.

Coatue did not respond to a request for comment and PFM Health Sciences declined to comment.

embraced by many in the tech industry. “This is what happens when you work to change things,” she said in a TV interview. “First they think you’re crazy, then they fight you, and then all of a sudden you change the world.”

In the years since Theranos collapsed, more tech start-ups have followed its strategy of looking outside the small network of Sand Hill Road venture capital firms for funding. Start-ups are raising more money at higher valuations, and deal-making has accelerated. Mutual funds, hedge funds, family offices, private equity funds and megafunds like SoftBank’s Vision Fund have rushed to back them.

Mr. Salehizadeh said Silicon Valley’s shift to a focus on fund-raising over all else was one reason he had left to set up a private equity firm on the East Coast. The big money brought more glitz to tech start-ups, he said, but it had little basis in business fundamentals.

“You’re always left feeling like either you’re an idiot or you’re brilliant,” he said. “It’s a tough way to be an investor.”

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Parents Face Long Waits for Car Seats and Other Baby Items

Almost as soon as Eryn Yates made it through her first trimester of pregnancy last spring, she started shopping for her dream nursery.

But getting the items she wanted turned into a nightmare.

The crib that she had ordered from Crate & Barrel arrived within weeks, but the rocking chair from Pottery Barn Kids was back-ordered for months, and then lost somewhere in transit. The delivery of the dresser she was going to use as her changing table was repeatedly postponed until West Elm informed her that it would be delivered in late April or May 2022 — more than six months after her daughter’s birth.

“I definitely thought that we were ahead of the game since we started ordering everything so early,” said Ms. Yates, 27, who lives in Winter Garden, Fla., and works in health care. “I was wrong.”

Global supply chain disruptions wrought by the pandemic have snarled the delivery of items as varied as medical devices, toys and Grape-Nuts. But perhaps no delays have provoked more familial angst in the last two years than those for baby items.

more than 3.6 million births in the United States in 2020.

The result of the baby-supply upheaval — besides higher prices and an ever-bustling hand-me-down market — has been an injection of new stress and uncertainty into an already emotionally delicate time. Expectant parents are scrambling to get items before they bring their babies home, and retailers and manufacturers are racing to reassure them that their goods will come, and devising hasty solutions if they won’t. Message boards on sites for new parents teem with complaints over back orders and repeated shipment delays. Retailers have become accustomed to soothing anxious parents-to-be.

“These are pregnant women that are all having their babies,” said Lauren Logan, the owner of the Juvenile Shop, a family-run baby retailer in the Sherman Oaks neighborhood of Los Angeles. “They are hormonal, but they are pregnant — they want their stuff. I don’t blame them. I want their stuff for them.”

traced to the outbreak of Covid-19, which triggered an economic slowdown, mass layoffs and a halt to production. Here’s what happened next:

On the receiving end are customers who don’t need another source of anxiety. First-time parents often research heavily before selecting strollers, cribs, car seats and other wares. And out-of-stock items can crimp registries; Babylist says new parents often select 100 to 200 items.

After Gina Catallo-Kokoletsos, 33, and her husband finally agreed on a crib from Pottery Barn Kids, her father placed the order as a gift in July. Originally, the crib was supposed to ship in October, giving just enough time before the couple’s baby was due in November. But when Ms. Catallo-Kokoletsos checked in September, she saw that the shipment date had been pushed to January.

“I called them, and they were like, ‘Oh, yeah, it’s going to be delayed.’ And I said, ‘Well, my baby is due before that,’” said Ms. Catallo-Kokoletsos, who lives in Chico, Calif., and works at an animal shelter. She ended up canceling the order and choosing a crib from a small company she had never heard of. That crib arrived on time, but other items on her baby registry, including a rocking chair, went out of stock before she could get them.

“I knew none of it was the end of the world,” she said. “It just kind of gets frustrating after a while.”

Further complicating matters for some expectant parents are deeply ingrained beliefs about buying or receiving items before their babies are born.

Joelle Fox, 35, a naturopathic physician in Scottsdale, Ariz., who is expecting a baby boy in January, said she was wary of ordering anything in part because of a custom among many Jewish people of not having baby things in the house until the baby arrives.

“It’s kind of a tradition that women have done, and I was kind of following that,” she said, adding that she also wanted to research items carefully to make sure they were not harmful. But the supply chain issues compelled her to start buying some items for the nursery at the end of October, a decision that she said prompted “a lot of emotions.”

Even still, she said, the dresser she ordered from Wayfair is not supposed to ship until mid-January. “That has definitely put a bit of a damper on everything, because I can’t get the room completely set up,” she said.

At around 36 weeks pregnant, Ms. Yates in Florida, whose daughter was born in October, gave up on receiving the West Elm dresser and bought one from Ikea. She cut off its legs and replaced them with metal ones that matched the crib she had bought.

She had less luck with her Pottery Barn Kids chair, which she had ordered in June. After it failed to arrive, she felt so desperate that she emailed corporate customer service and copied the chief executive. By the time she was told in October that the chair had been lost, the color and fabric she wanted were no longer available. The company ended up sending her a loaner chair, in a different color, “so I at least had something in the room for me to use.”

Ms. Yates said that she was sympathetic to the companies’ struggles, but that the ordeal still had left her in tears.

“I was not a very emotional pregnant woman — I had a very short temper, rather than being a crier,” she said. “But when it came to the nursery, I cried a lot, because I had this picture of exactly what I wanted, and then it just felt like one thing after another.”

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Roche says at-home COVID-19 rapid test gets ok from FDA

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A box of material for rapid COVID-19 antigenic tests made by Swiss drugmaker Roche is pictured at the University Hospital (CHUV) during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Lausanne, Switzerland, November 13, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

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Dec 24 (Reuters) – Roche said on Friday that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to its COVID-19 at-home rapid test that can be used by people as young as 14.

The test, which uses a anterior nasal swab sample, is “able to produce accurate, reliable and quick results in as few as 20 minutes” for SARS-CoV-2 and all variants of concern, including Omicron, the drugmaker said in a statement.

The variant has become dominant in the United States with lightning speed, dashing hopes for a more normal holiday season, resurrecting restrictions and stretching the country’s testing infrastructure ahead of holiday travel and gatherings. read more

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“Roche has the capacity to produce tens of millions of tests per month to help support the pandemic response,” the Swiss firm said, adding that the test will be available across the U.S. from January.

The test’s approval comes at a time when companies such as Walmart Inc (WMT.N), Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA.O) and CVS Health Corp (CVS.N) have limited sales of at-home COVID-19 testing kits as demand surged owing to the swift spread of the variant of the coronavirus.

U.S. President Joe Biden recently unveiled plans to buy 500 million rapid COVID-19 tests to be distributed for free to Americans who request them starting in January. read more

The test can also be used by for children aged 2-13 years under adult supervision, according to the company. “The launch will be in partnership with SD Biosensor Inc (137310.KS), with whom Roche has a global distribution agreement.”

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Reporting by Vishal Vivek in Bengaluru; Editing by Sandra Maler

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Tencent hands shareholders $16.4 bln windfall in the form of JD.com stake

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  • Move comes as Beijing cracks down on technology firms
  • JD.com shares plunge as much as 11.2%, Tencent up 4%
  • Tencent has no plans to sell stakes in other firms-source

BEIJING/HONG KONG, Dec 23 (Reuters) – Chinese gaming and social media company Tencent (0700.HK) will pay out a $16.4 billion dividend by distributing most of its JD.com (9618.HK) stake, weakening its ties to the e-commerce firm and raising questions about its plans for other holdings.

The move comes as Beijing leads a broad regulatory crackdown on technology firms, taking aim at their overseas growth ambitions and domestic concentration of market power.

Tencent said on Thursday it will transfer HK$127.69 billion ($16.37 billion) worth of its JD.com stake to shareholders, slashing its holding in China’s second-biggest e-commerce company to 2.3% from around 17% now and losing its spot as JD.com’s biggest shareholder to Walmart (WMT.N).

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The owner of WeChat, which first invested in JD.com in 2014, said it was the right time for the divestment, given the e-commerce firm had reached a stage where it can self-finance its growth.

Chinese regulators have this year blocked Tencent’s proposed $5.3 billion merger of the country’s top two videogame streaming sites, ordered it to end exclusive music copyright agreements and found WeChat illegally transferred user data.

The company is one of a handful of technology giants that dominate China’s internet space and which have historically prevented rivals’ links and services from being shared on their platforms.

“This seems to be a continuation of the concept of bringing down the walled gardens and increasing competition among the tech giants by weakening partnerships, exclusivity and other arrangements which weaken competitive pressures,” Mio Kato, a LightStream Research analyst who publishes on Smartkarma said of the JD.com stake transfer.

“It could have implications for things like the payments market where Tencent’s relationships with Pinduoduo and JD have helped it maintain some competitiveness with Alipay,” he said.

JD.com shares plunged 11.2% at one point in Hong Kong trade on Thursday, the biggest daily percentage decline since its debut in the city in June 2020, before closing with a 7.0.% decline. Shares of Tencent, Asia’s most valuable listed company, rose 4.2%.

Shares of Tencent and JD on Dec 23

The companies said they would continue to have a business relationship, including an ongoing strategic partnership agreement, though Tencent Executive Director and President Martin Lau will step down from JD.com’s board immediately.

Eligible Tencent shareholders will be entitled to one share of JD.com for every 21 shares they hold.

A Tencent logo is seen in Beijing, China September 4, 2020. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang

PORTFOLIO DIVESTMENTS?

The JD.com stake is part of Tencent’s portfolio of listed investments valued at $185 billion as of Sept. 30, including stakes in e-commerce company Pinduoduo (PDD.O), food delivery firm Meituan (3690.HK), video platform Kuaishou (1024.HK), automaker Tesla (TSLA.O) and streaming service Spotify (SPOT.N).

Alex Au, managing director at Hong Kong-based hedge fund manager Alphalex Capital Management, said the JD.com sale made both business and political sense.

“There might be other divestments on their way as Tencent heeds the antitrust call while shareholders ask to own those interests in minority stakes themselves,” he said.

A person with knowledge of the matter told Reuters Tencent has no plans to exit its other investments. When asked about Pinduoduo and Meituan, the person said they are not as well-developed as JD.com.

The Chinese internet giant has also invested in overseas companies such as Tesla (TSLA.O), Netamble, Snapchat, Spotify (SPOT.N) and Sea (SE.N). “Going abroad is one of Tencent’s most important strategies in the future,” a CITIC Securities research note said on Thursday. “The possibility of selling overseas high-quality technology and internet assets is small.”

Tencent chose to distribute the JD shares as a dividend rather than sell them on the market in an attempt to avoid a steep fall in JD.com’s share price as well as a high tax bill, the person added.

Kenny Ng, an analyst at Everbright Sun Hung Kai, said the decision was “definitely negative” for JD.com.

“Although Tencent’s reduction of JD’s holdings may not have much impact on JD’s actual business, when the shares are transferred from Tencent to Tencent’s shareholders, the chances of Tencent’s shareholders selling JD’s shares as dividends will increase,” he said.

Technology investor Prosus (PRX.AS), which is Tencent’s largest shareholder with a 29% stake and is controlled by Naspers of South Africa, will receive the biggest portion of JD.com shares.

Walmart owns a 9.3% stake in JD.com, according to the Chinese company. Payments processor Alipay is part of Tencent rival Alibaba Group .

($1 = 7.7996 Hong Kong dollars)

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Reporting by Sophie Yu in Beijing and Scott Murdoch in Hong Kong; Additional reporting by Xie Yu, Selena Li, Donny Kwok and Eduardo Baptista in Hong Kong and Nikhil Kurian Nainan in Bengaluru; Writing by Jamie Freed; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu and Muralikumar Anantharaman

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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