Tag: Stock

Prominent U.S. senators ask DOJ to block Humana-Aetna deal; and FAA hits Amazon with another hazardous shipping fine

A news summary, focused on 10 big employers; updated 4:23 p.m.

Richard Blumenthal
Blumenthal

HUMANA: A group of high-profile U.S. Senate Democrats yesterday urged the Justice Department to block the proposed Aetna-Humana and Anthem-Cigna mergers, which would shrink the number of national health insurers to three from five. In a letter, they argued the pending tie-ups would threaten jobs, raise premiums, and reduce the quality of care. The letter was signed by Al Franken of Minnesota, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, Dianne Feinstein of California, Mazie K. Hirono of Hawaii — and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, in whose state both Aetna and Cigna are headquartered (Business Insurance). Aetna officials have said they expect the $37 billion merger with Humana will close in this year’s second half.

AMAZON: The FAA has proposed fining Amazon another $130,000 for twice shipping hazardous packages in 2014 without warning labels or emergency response information. In one,  the retailer offered UPS a box with a 19-ounce container of Simple Air EZ Green HVAC Cleaner. The flammable gas was discovered by UPS workers in Kentucky; the second incident involved FedEx. The proposed penalty comes two weeks after the FAA fined Amazon $350,000 over a similar incident that caused injuries to several UPS workers (CIO). Also, a San Francisco Bay area woman learned the hard way that Amazon can, indeed, ban you for good if you return too many orders — although she eventually got a reprieve (NBC). Amazon employs 6,000 at two distribution centers near Louisville.

Papa John's logoPAPA JOHN’S: Researcher Nomura yesterday downgraded Papa John’s stock to neutral from buy, partly because of concerns traffic accidents involving delivery drivers could push up insurance costs. Among the examples cited: A jury in DeKalb County, Ga., awarded $11 million to a woman who suffered long-term brain damage after an incident involving a Papa John’s driver. “While this award likely will be appealed (if it hasn’t already),” Nomura told clients, “it does highlight what appears to us to be the growing risks.” The firm also downgraded Domino’s shares for the same reason (MarketWatch). Wall Street was unfazed: Papa John’s shares closed today at $67.79, up 2.3%.

BROWN-FORMAN is launching a global scavenger hunt to celebrate the 150th anniversary of its flagship Jack Daniel’s Distillery. Starting July 1 through September, the distiller will provide clues via its Facebook page to 150 hidden whiskey barrels around the world and give fans the opportunity to find and win prizes. The barrels will be hidden at airports in Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Heathrow, Milan, Paris, Singapore, Los Angeles and Sydney, plus cultural and historic sites (Frontier Magazine and Travel Retail Business).

FORD and the other two big U.S. automakers collectively outperformed import brands for just the second time in 30 years in this year’s closely watched J.D. Power Initial Quality Study. Still, Ford finished No. 11; Kia was No. 1 (Detroit Free Press). The automaker employs nearly 10,000 workers at its auto and truck factories in Louisville.

UPS: A Idaho woman is praising a UPS driver after he likely saved her and her sons from what could have been a deadly house fire last month (East Idaho News). UPS is Louisville’s single-biggest employer, with about 22,000 workers its Worldport hub at Louisville International Airport, the biggest fully automated package handling facility in the world.

TACO BELL: A viral video of a teenager’s arrest for allegedly brandishing a knife at a Taco Bell employee in Wisconsin has sparked protests and an internal police inquiry (The Root).

In other news, Texas Roadhouse shares closed at $46.55, up 3% — another record closing high — after setting an earlier intraday high of $46.60. And Churchill Downs shares closed at $127.60 up 63 cents as nearly two million shares changed hands — 10 times average volume. Standard & Poor’s announced the Louisville company would replace Fortune Brands Home & Security in the S&P MidCap 400 after the close of trading today (RTT News).

B-F’s still kinda, sorta behind Finlandia; and Yum CEO Creed talks tough on Domino’s: It’s the technology, stupid

A news summary, focused on big employers; updated 4:51 p.m.

FinlandiaBROWN-FORMAN: Amid recent speculation the company is considering selling Finlandia, CEO Paul Varga threw tepid support behind the vodka brand during the fiscal fourth-quarter conference call with Wall Street analysts yesterday; he was responding to an analyst’s question about Finlandia’s being a “drag” on growth.

“Finlandia has been very important to particularly Jack Daniel’s development in Eastern Europe over the last decade,” Varga said, according to Seeking Alpha’s transcript. “It’s just a very difficult time for the vodka segments in those Eastern European countries right now, and we’ve seen this before with categories where they go through some rough times. . . . Right now, we continue to work Finlandia” (Seeking Alpha).

Greg Creed
Creed

PIZZA HUT: Yum CEO Greg Creed, conceding in especially frank language that Domino’s has greater U.S. revenue momentum, says improving ordering technology is critical. “We have to get our technology in shape in order to be as easy to order, pay, and track [as possible],” he told an investor conference Wednesday, “and I think as we build the brand and we get that in shape, we’ll actually build more units and that will give us greater physical access.” Pizza Hut has 8,100 U.S. locations, including its Express format vs. more than 5,200 for Domino’s (The Street).

Technology is key to luring millenials and other young customers. Domino’s newest technology shows the challenge. The company’s biggest franchiser in Australia yesterday said it will start using satellites next week to follow customers as they approach stores to pick up already-placed orders, allowing the company to wait until the last moment to start cooking so orders stay fresh. The fast-food surveillance measure, which starts Monday, comes a decade after Domino’s started letting customers track their own orders. The newest service works with customers who place orders with their GPS-equipped smartphones, and opt in to be tracked. They  can specify whether they’re coming on foot, on bike, or by car (Bloomberg). Other recent Domino’s innovations include the capabilities to order food via emoji, smartwatch, or a “zero-click” mobile app (Eater).

John Schnatter
Schnatter

PAPA JOHN’S CEO John Schnatter promised neighbors in tony Anchorage he would limit his personal helicopter use to six or fewer times a week, and only between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m.; they had complained about the noise it created (Insider Louisville).

In other news, U.S. stocks accelerated their decline an hour before markets closed, as Wall Street looked ahead to a Federal Reserve meeting, and the U.K.’s so-called Brexit vote due later this month. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and other major indices were all down about 1% (Google Finance).

Oscar-winner and Louisville native Jennifer Lawrence will portray Elizabeth Holmes, the 32-year-old disgraced founder of the controversial blood-testing startup Theranos; the new film is still in development. Lawrence, 25, played an entrepreneur last year in Joy, about the inventor of a kitchen mop (Hollywood Reporter). Louisville filmmaker Matthew Fulks has sued singer Beyoncé, claiming a trailer for the Grammy winner’s new Lemonade movie copied elements of his 2014 short film Palinoia (Spin and Vulture).

Watch the trailer, and Fulks’ film:

NTT adding 300 jobs in Louisville; Ford’s $916K Edsel faced most pushback in director re-elect, and Hut tries beer-infused crust

A news summary focused on big employers; updated 7:43 p.m.

NTT DATA said it will add 300 jobs at its Louisville center to bolster its financial services offerings. The expansion comes only three years after NTT opened its North America Service Delivery Center in the city. The company is based in Plano, Texas (press release).

Edsel Ford II
Ford

FORD said all 14 directors were re-elected to the board last week during the annual shareholders meeting. But the best-paid of them, Edsel Ford II, faced the most opposition (SEC). Ford, 67, has been on the board since 1988, and is a great-grandson of the company’s founder. Last year, the automaker paid him $915,609 in fees — far more than any other director. That included $650,000 under a 1999 consulting agreement he has with the company (proxy report). Also, Executive Vice President James Farley sold 78,042 shares yesterday at $13.31 each for a total $1.1 million (SEC). Ford’s stock closed at $13.14, down 1.4%.

HUMANA issued a progress report on its goal to improve health outcomes 20% in communities where it does business by 2020 (press release); full report.

PIZZA HUT is giving beer-infused crusts a trial run in London (Mirror).

KFC has just opened the world’s first human-free fast food restaurant in Shanghai (Yahoo Tech). And a British newspaper wins today’s prize for worst pun use in a story: “Hundreds of fried-chicken lovers were counting their clucky stars this morning at the opening of KFC’s new Nottinghamshire eatery (Nottingham Post).”

AMAZON continued expanding its restaurant food delivery service, first announced in November for 20 big cities, to Manhattan and Dallas (press releases here and here).

In other news, Gannett has substantially raised its hostile bid for The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and other Tribune Publishing Co. newspapers by 22%, to $15 a share from $12; Tribune’s board has so far rebuffed the Courier-Journal’s parent company (regulatory filing).

The popular Highlands Asian restaurant Joy Luck is opening a second location, in the East End (Insider Louisville). The Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari park’s 11th annual charity walk raised more than than $350,000 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (Courier-Journal).

stephen-reily4
Reily

Louisville entrepreneur Stephen Reily is among seven candidates vying for one of the most sought-after seats on the 26-member Metro Council — the Highland’s District 8 — as voters head for the polls today (Insider Louisville).