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Today’s Business, Stock Market News and More: Live Updates

Dunkin’ has benefitted from investments in its digital business before the coronavirus outbreak, helping it offer contact-free takeout.Credit…Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

Dunkin’ Brands, the parent of Dunkin’ and Baskin Robbins, is negotiating with a private equity-backed company for a sale that values the restaurant chain at nearly $9 billion. The potential takeover, reported first by The New York Times on Sunday, would come at a 20 percent premium to Dunkin’s share price on Friday, which was already trading near a high.

That’s a lot of doughnuts, notes today’s DealBook newsletter. What is the prospective buyer, Inspire Brands, getting for its money?

Dunkin’ has done well during the pandemic, benefiting from investments in its digital business before the coronavirus outbreak, helping it offer contact-free takeout. Shifting work patterns mean more people are coming in later in the day, bolstering premium products like espresso and specialty beverages, which diners may have bought from smaller, independent coffee shops before. (Drinks make up more than half of Dunkin’s revenue, and it dropped “Donuts” from its name last year.)

Bankers have long considered the company, whose 21,000 Dunkin’ and Baskin Robbins outlets are all franchised, a takeover target. It would be a jewel in the portfolio of Inspire Brands, a conglomerate backed by the investment firm Roark Capital, which has been on a buying spree in recent years, acquiring chains like Arby’s, Buffalo Wild Wings and Jimmy Johns.

Inspire’s strategy is to improve companies’ digital operations while keeping their brands separate. (Its chief executive, Paul Brown, has said he wants to organize the company like Hilton Hotels, where he once worked.) Owning a dominant chain like Dunkin’ could be the final touch Inspire needs before going public, as some expect — though Inspire has never confirmed such plans.

Despite the price, the availability of cheap debt and steady cash flow from the chain’s franchises should make it easier to finance. Pent-up demand for deals led to a big jump in mergers and acquisitions in the third quarter, and a Dunkin’ takeover could inspire other private equity firms to jump into the fray for pandemic-proof targets.

App-based payments are far more ubiquitous in China than they are in the West.Credit…Alex Plavevski/EPA, via Shutterstock

Ant Group runs a mobile payment service with more than 730 million monthly users, plus a consumer finance platform that provides hundreds of millions of people access to credit, insurance and investment products — all with a direct line into China’s leading e-commerce company, Alibaba.

Now, Ant is planning for an initial public offering that is expected to be among the world’s largest. Unlike Alibaba, which sold its shares on the New York Stock Exchange in 2014, Ant will instead list on exchanges in Hong Kong and Shanghai.

The company is aiming to raise around $34 billion in total, according to stock exchange documents released on Monday. That would make the dual stock sale bigger than Saudi Aramco’s 2019 listing, which raised about $29 billion, and Alibaba’s $25 billion haul six years ago.

Ant’s Alipay platform was started by Alibaba as a payment service for e-commerce, and the company is still controlled by Alibaba’s billionaire founder, Jack Ma. (Ant has changed its name over the years, and was previously called Ant Financial.)

Reporters at The New York Times have been covering Ant’s rise. Here’s what you need to know about Ant ahead of its mega stock sale.

The initial public offering would value the company at around $310 billion, a market value comparable to that of JPMorgan Chase and more than that of many other global banks, Raymond Zhong reported. The money Ant raises would surpass the $29.4 billion that Saudi Arabia’s state-run oil company, Saudi Aramco, raised when it went public last year.

When people across China want to pay for something, they don’t reach for their wallets. They grab their phones. With Alipay and another smartphone app, the social platform WeChat, exchanging money is a matter of scanning a QR code — at an in-person cashier, during checkout at an online store or face-to-face with a friend. Shops and restaurants still accept cash, though often begrudgingly.

Ant’s staggering growth hasn’t come without hiccups. In 2017, it started a bid for MoneyGram, the Dallas-based money transfer company. But as Ana Swanson and Paul Mozur wrote, American officials effectively killed that plan a year later, as the relationship between China and the United States grew more hostile.

Ant would be valued at around $310 billion — more than many of the largest Wall Street banks (JPMorgan Chase has a market value of about $316 billion) — once the initial public offering is completed. But even in 2016, interest in fast-growing Chinese technology companies meant investors were willing to pay a high price for the business.

At the time, Paul Mozur and Michael J. de la Merced wrote that Ant had fetched a valuation of about $60 billion, in a private financing round — or more than $10 billion over the market value of PayPal Holdings.

The New York Stock Exchange. Credit…Frank Franklin Ii/Associated Press
  • Stocks on Wall Street extended last week’s decline, following European shares lower as more restrictions, including curfews and lockdowns in Spain and Italy, were introduced to try to combat the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

  • The S&P 500 fell about 1 percent in early trading. The Stoxx Europe 600 index was down by about the same amount.

  • Oil prices fell, with rising coronavirus cases expected to reduce demand even as supply will increase in Libya. Futures for West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. crude benchmark, fell 2.6 percent to below $39 a barrel.

  • Coronavirus case numbers have climbed to new highs in the United States in recent days, and at the same time the prospects of more economic aid for shuttered businesses and laid-off workers have dimmed considerably with the presidential election just eight days away.

  • In Spain, the government declared a state of emergency and imposed a nighttime curfew. In Italy, cinemas and gyms are closing and indoor dining will end at 6 p.m. In France, a six-week curfew for most of the country began on Friday

In 2007, Steve Jobs, left, Apple’s co-founder, invited Google’s chief executive, Eric Schmidt, to join him to explain how Google would work on the iPhone.Credit…Tony Avelar/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

For 15 years, Apple and Google — Silicon Valley’s two most valuable companies — have been partners in one of the most lucrative business deals in history: an agreement to feature Google’s search engine as the preselected choice on Apple devices, including the iPhone.

The deal, updated over the years, has been worth billions of dollars to both companies, but it is now in jeopardy after the Justice Department filed a landmark lawsuit last week that accused Google of using illegal tactics — like the rarely discussed pact with Apple — to protect its monopoly and choke off competition in web search.

Apple and Google’s parent company, Alphabet, compete on plenty of fronts, like smartphones, digital maps and laptops. But the rivalry has been put aside when it suits their financial interests.

Nearly half of Google’s search traffic comes from Apple devices, according to the Justice Department, and the prospect of losing the Apple deal has been described as a “code red” scenario inside the company. When iPhone users search on Google, they see the search ads that drive Google’s business. They can also find their way to other Google products, like YouTube.

In exchange, Apple receives an estimated $8 billion to $12 billion in annual payments.

After a meeting in 2018 between the companies’ two chief executives, Tim Cook and Sundar Pichai, a senior Apple employee wrote to a Google counterpart that “our vision is that we work as if we are one company,” according to the Justice Department’s complaint.

The Justice Department argues that the arrangement has unfairly helped make Google, which handles 92 percent of the world’s internet searches, the center of consumers’ online lives.

In Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, the government is renting empty apartments and subletting them as subsidized housing.Credit…Armando Franca/Associated Press

Long before the coronavirus swept across Europe this spring, many cities were complaining that a proliferation of short-term apartment rentals aimed at tourists through platforms like Airbnb was driving up housing costs for locals and destroying the character of historic districts.

Now that the pandemic has all but cut off the steady flow of visitors, many European cities are seizing an opportunity to push short-term rentals back onto the long-term housing market.

In Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, the city government is becoming a landlord itself by renting empty apartments and subletting them as subsidized housing. In Barcelona, Spain, the housing department is threatening to take possession of empty properties and do the same.

Other city governments are enacting or planning new laws to curb the explosive growth of rentals aimed largely at tourists. Amsterdam has banned vacation rentals in the heart of the old city, and Paris is planning a referendum on Airbnb-type listings.

When tourists are plentiful, renting a property on a short-term basis can be more lucrative for owners than a long-term tenant, something that city governments say has distorted housing markets in cities where supply is already tight.

“We entered the pandemic with a huge pressure on our housing market, and we cannot afford to exit the pandemic with the same set of problems,” said Lisbon’s mayor, Fernando Medina.

The city has started signing five-year leases for empty short-term rental apartments. These properties are then sublet at lower prices to people eligible for subsidized housing. The city government has set aside 4 million euros, or about $4.7 million, for the first year of subsidies.

The program is aiming to attract 1,000 apartment owners this year, and has drawn 200 so far. Mr. Medina said he was confident that the plan would meet its goal, since a quick rebound in tourism seems increasingly unlikely as the pandemic drags on.

More than a third of the S&P 500 reports earnings this week. Companies have soundly beat (lowered) expectations thus far.

The tech giants are expected to rake in cash, with Microsoft reporting on Tuesday and Alphabet, Amazon, Apple and Facebook on Thursday. On Wednesday, the chief executives of Alphabet, Facebook and Twitter are expected to testify before the Senate Commerce Committee on “transparency and accountability.”

In finance, HSBC reports on Tuesday; Blackstone, Deutsche Bank, Mastercard and Visa on Wednesday; Credit Suisse on Thursday; and KKR on Friday

Pharmaceutical firms providing coronavirus treatment updates along with earnings include Merck, Novartis and Pfizer on Tuesday; Amgen and GlaxoSmithKline on Wednesday; and Moderna and Sanofi on Thursday.

Updates from heavy industry come from BP and Caterpillar on Tuesday; Boeing, Ford and General Electric on Wednesday; Shell and Volkswagen on Thursday; and ExxonMobil on Friday.

But the biggest number of the week is the release on Thursday of third-quarter United States G.D.P., the last major economic data point before the election. It’s expected to show a record-breaking 30 percent annualized surge, but because it follows a collapse of roughly the same magnitude in the previous quarter, the economy will still be down from where it was at the start of the pandemic.

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