FORD is shutting down production for a week at the Louisville Assembly Plant starting today, canceling shifts to slow production slightly as it pauses to allow demand to catch up with supply. A second week off is scheduled to start Oct. 31. Sales of the two compact SUVs made there — Escape and MKC — are up slightly through September, but Ford officials said they want to keep production and inventory levels in line (Courier-Journal). The company employs nearly 4,700 workers at the factory, plus another 5,100 at its sister truck factory. More about Ford in Louisville.
CEO Mark Fields is recasting the company as an auto maker and a transportation-services provider, as he pivots away from predecessor Alan Mulallay’s “One Ford” vision, shorthand for a painful downsizing and management overhauls that helped the automaker avoid bankruptcy and return to big profits. In recent months, according to a new Wall Street Journal story today, it has launched a series of investments and partnerships in areas like self-driving automobiles, electrified vehicles and ride sharing.
But those efforts have done little to raise the company’s stock, which has fallen by roughly 30% since Fields took over in mid-2014, despite record earnings last year. Investors appear more focused on plateauing U.S. auto sales and the company’s weakening near-term profit outlook. Some market watchers also say it isn’t clear how the new initiatives will mesh strategically (WSJ).
PAPA JOHN’S: Calling it “one of its biggest product innovations in a decade,” the company has introduced a pan-style pizza with an even greater emphasis on fresh ingredients. “Made from fresh, never-frozen pan dough with no artificial preservatives,” the chain said yesterday in a news release, “this crust features seven simple ingredients — a signature blend of flour and extra virgin olive oil, cold-filtered water, sugar, salt, yeast and oil.”
Papa John’s is promoting the new menu item with a specially designed black box, and a new advertising campaign featuring retired Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt, and CEO John Schnatter. (See, above.)
Wall Street liked the news. The company’s stock (PZZA) jumped 3%, closing yesterday at $78.10, up $2.25. The rally continued after hours, with shares rising another 15 to $79.06.
BROWN-FORMAN is still “very committed” to its Finlandia vodka unit, despite struggling sales in major Russian and eastern European markets, according to Marshall Farrer, head of the distiller’s global travel retail business and a company director. Farrer’s remarks, at the annual TFWA World Exhibition & Conference now under way in Cannes, followed industry speculation earlier this year that Brown-Forman had placed Finlandia on the auction block (Spirits Business).
KINDRED said it completed its previously announced agreement to sell 12 long-term acute care hospitals in six states for $27.5 million to Curahealth, an affiliate of the private investment fund Nautic Partners. The hospitals have a total of 783 licensed beds in Arizona, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Tennessee (press release). The Louisville-based hospital and nursing giant employs about 2,200 workers in the city, including at the Fourth and Broadway headquarters downtown. It has more than 100,000 workers nationwide.
Shares in the major Louisville-area employer traded for $825.24 before easing back to a more recent $825.09, up $9, or 1.1%. Today’s were the second consecutive day of gains following a Wall Street Journal report yesterday that Amazon planned a full-on assault against UPS by establishing itself as a standalone shipper. The retailer has 6,000 employees at distribution centers in Jeffersonville and Shepherdsville.
Tackling the delivery business, Amazon executives publicly say, is a logical way to add delivery capacity — particularly during the peak Christmas season, according to a new Wall Street Journal this afternoon.
“But interviews with nearly two dozen current and former Amazon managers and business partners indicate the retailer has grander ambitions than it has publicly acknowledged,” the newspaper says.
Amazon’s goal, these people say, is to one day haul and deliver packages for itself as well as other retailers and consumers — potentially upending the traditional relationship between seller and sender.