Friday, November 30, 2018

Business News in Brief - Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Bayer cutting 12,000 jobs worldwide

BERLIN -- German pharmaceutical giant Bayer AG said it's cutting 12,000 jobs worldwide as it seeks to reduce costs.

The Leverkusen-based company said Thursday that details of the cuts to its 118,200-strong workforce would be worked out in coming months but that "a significant number" of the reductions would come in Germany.

Bayer acquired U.S. seed and weedkiller maker Monsanto Co. this year. It says that with the "synergies expected from the acquisition of Monsanto" and other efficiency and structural measures, including the job cuts, "Bayer anticipates annual contributions of 2.6 billion euros [more than $2.9 billion] from 2022 on."

The company says a portion of the funds will be used to strengthen competitiveness and innovation in its divisions.

-- The Associated Press

Ex-miners press U.S. for black lung aid

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Former Appalachian coal miners and supporters are in Washington this week to urge lawmakers to extend a tax that benefits miners sick with black lung disease.

The excise tax paid by coal companies funds the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, but if Congress doesn't act the tax will decrease by about 55 percent at the end of the year.

Calling it a matter of life and death, supporters said the fund could be halved without the extension.

Kenny Fleming recalls working in an eastern Kentucky mine owned by Massey Energy that had dust so thick you "couldn't see your hand in front of your face." Fleming, 59, had to retire early from coal mining when he got sick with black lung.

House Republicans inserted a one-year extension for the tax into a tax bill released this week.

The fund supplies benefits and a medical expense card to black lung sufferers and dependents when a coal company appeals the miner's black lung benefits award or when the company goes bankrupt, freeing it from paying black lung benefits. A federal report said the trust fund paid about $184 million in benefits to more than 25,000 coal miners and dependents in 2017.

-- The Associated Press

No. 2 GM exec to run robot car division

SAN FRANCISCO -- General Motors' No. 2 executive is moving from Detroit to Silicon Valley to run the automaker's self-driving car operations as it attempts to cash in on its bet that robotic vehicles will transform transportation.

GM President Dan Ammann will become CEO of the company's Cruise Automation subsidiary at the beginning of next year. He will replace Cruise co-founder Kyle Vogt, who will become chief technology officer.

The transition announced Thursday comes as Cruise gears up to introduce a ride-hailing service deploying its driverless technology in GM's Chevy Bolt next year. The service is supposed to debut at some point next year in a major U.S. city, with Cruise's home city of San Francisco considered to be among the top candidates.

Cruise and GM have steadfastly declined to provide further details about the ride-hailing service, which is expected to be the second in the U.S. to rely on fully autonomous vehicles that won't have a human behind the steering wheel to take control if the technology goes awry. Google spinoff Waymo has promised to launch a ride-hailing service with driverless vans in the Phoenix area within the next few weeks.

GM's decision to put one of its top executives in charge of Cruise provides further validation of a 5-year-old startup that has ballooned from 40 workers to more than 1,000 employees since the Detroit automaker bought it for $1 billion in 2016.

-- The Associated Press

Madoff's victims to get another $695M

Thousands of victims of Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme are due to get checks totaling $695 million from a U.S. Justice Department fund created through settlements with some of the con man's oldest customers and his bank, JPMorgan Chase & Co.

The payout, to 27,000 victims worldwide, is the third distribution from the $4 billion fund, the department said Thursday in a statement. The government-led recovery is separate from a $13.3 billion fund overseen by a trustee who has been liquidating Madoff's firm in court for the past 10 years to compensate people he duped.

Madoff's investors lost a total of $19 billion in principal and more than $40 billion in fake profit when his securities firm collapsed in December 2008. Federal prosecutors called it the biggest Ponzi scheme in history. Madoff, 80, was sentenced to 150 years behind bars after pleading guilty in 2009.

-- Bloomberg News

Three carmakers reaffirm partnership

Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi sought to reassure investors their automaking partnership was secure as executives met jointly for the first time since the the arrest of alliance Chairman Carlos Ghosn.

"Unanimously and with conviction, the boards of Groupe Renault, Nissan Motor Co. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. have reaffirmed over the past days their deep commitment to the alliance," the companies said Thursday in a statement after a meeting in Amsterdam.

Ghosn's arrest in Japan this month on allegations of financial improprieties removed a leader who enforced over two decades a structure that favored Renault and kept a lid on differences with its main partner, Nissan. The joint statement, while thin on detail, was meant to reassure investors that their collaboration would continue, as divisions bubbled to the surface.

The CEOs of the three companies sent a similarly worded letter to employees, attempting to dampen fears of divisions between France and Japan, and to minimize the impact of Ghosn's departure.

-- Bloomberg News

Big Mouth Billy Bass lip-syncs to Alexa

DALLAS -- Kitsch and high-tech are linking up just in time for Christmas.

Big Mouth Billy Bass is programmed to respond to Alexa voice commands through a compatible Amazon Echo device. That means the singing and talking fish will lip-sync to Alexa's responses and will dance to songs from Amazon music. When it's first plugged in, it will respond "Woo-hoo, that feels good!"

Gemmy Industries product development vice president Steven Harris says "this is not your father's Big Mouth Billy Bass." But like the original, it includes the song "Fishin' Time" and can be mounted on the wall or on an easel.

Big Mouth Billy Bass was first sold in 1999. A developer first connected it to Alexa in 2016.

The new version will be released Saturday for $39.99.

-- The Associated Press

Business on 11/30/2018

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