Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Apr 04, 2016 5:23 PM

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Data trove on offshore accounts sparks probes, questions

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — A massive leak of 11.5 million documents from a Panama-based law firm offers a glimpse into the shadowy world in which the rich and powerful stash their wealth — and raises sharp questions about the use of shell companies that hide the identity of their true owners.

The document dump first reported Sunday shows the hidden offshore assets of politicians, businesses and celebrities around the world, including 12 current or former heads of state. Among the countries with past or present political figures named in the reports are Iceland, Ukraine, Argentina, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Russia.

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Alaska Air buys Virgin America, aims to become best in West

NEW YORK (AP) — Alaska Airlines' parent company announced Monday that it will pay $2.6 billion to buy Virgin America.

The company hopes the deal will help establish it as travelers' preferred airline on the West Coast and make it a tougher competitor to giants American, Delta and United on transcontinental routes.

The deal would vault Alaska over JetBlue — the losing bidder for Virgin America — to become the nation's fifth-biggest airline by passenger traffic.

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Intel CEO plugs into power of reality TV

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Intel CEO Brian Krzanich is hoping to give the chipmaker a boost by being on national TV.

Krzanich is the central tech expert of the five judges who will pick a $1 million winner among technology startups on a new Intel-funded competition TV show, "America's Greatest Makers." The 10-episode series kicks off on TBS on Tuesday.

Each team has to use Intel's latest sensor-laden chip package, Curie, to make a Web-connected gizmo that wows the judges, a group that includes NBA star Shaquille O'Neal and Mike Rowe of the Discovery show "Dirty Jobs."

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Drone company demos how blood air-drops will work in Rwanda

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Drone delivery might be years away in the U.S., but it's becoming a reality in Rwanda this summer.

A San Francisco-based drone delivery company says it'll start making its first deliveries of blood and medicine in Rwanda in July.

Zipline International Inc., backed by tech heavyweights like Sequoia Capital and Google Ventures, demonstrated its technology for journalists last week. It plans to operate in other countries later this year if it proves it can operate successfully in Rwanda.

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Orders for lower-price Tesla reach 276,000

DETROIT (AP) — Worldwide orders for the new lower-priced Tesla electric car hit 276,000 over the weekend, surprising even the company's CEO, who says it may force Tesla to open another factory.

CEO Elon Musk posted the number Sunday on his Twitter feed and said if the trend continues, Model 3 orders could hit 500,000 and would require another factory in Europe to meet demand.

Tesla also hopes to avoid the production delays it has had with other vehicles.

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California, New York enact US-highest $15 minimum wages

LOS ANGELES (AP) — California and New York acted Monday to gradually push their statewide minimum wages to $15 an hour — the highest in the nation.

The new laws in California and New York mark the most ambitious moves yet to close the national divide between rich and poor. Experts say other states may follow, given Congress' reluctance to act despite entreaties from President Barack Obama.

While it was a victory for those struggling on the margins of the economy, business groups warned that the move could cost thousands of jobs as employers are forced to provide steadily bigger paychecks.

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PulteGroup CEO plans retirement, as founder seeks change

PulteGroup Chairman and CEO Richard J. Dugas Jr. will retire next year, a decision the homebuilder attributes in part to a leadership change demanded by the company's founder and grandson.

Dugas has served as CEO since 2003 and chairman of the company's board since 2009. The Atlanta-based company said Monday that Dugas decided to retire in May 2017, due in part to the actions of company founder Bill Pulte and his grandson, Jim Grosfeld, who was appointed to the board at the founder's request.

PulteGroup Inc. said Bill Pulte, who founded the company in 1950, and Grosfeld had recently demanded an immediate CEO change and a different direction for the company.

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Gilead paying up to $1.2B for Nimbus unit, drug candidate

Biologic drugmaker Gilead Sciences Inc. said Monday that it will buy a subsidiary of Nimbus Therapeutics LLC and its experimental pill for an increasingly common metabolic disorder that causes life-threatening fat buildup in the liver.

Gilead, based in Foster City, California, will pay $400 million for Nimbus Apollo Inc. Parent company Nimbus Therapeutics, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, could receive another $800 million if Nimbus Apollo's drug development program meets certain milestones in testing results and medicine approval and sales.

The Nimbus deal brings Gilead a drug that could treat fatty liver and possibly liver cancer and other diseases, plus technology for "designing" more-targeted medicines faster.

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Yves Saint Laurent appoints Vaccarello as creative director

PARIS (AP) — The Yves Saint Laurent fashion house appointed Anthony Vaccarello as creative director of its clothing line on Monday, replacing the departing Hedi Slimane.

The 36-year-old Belgian, who has designed his own brand since 2009, previously worked at Fendi, and had a three-year stint at Versus Versace, where he was appointed creative director in 2015. Versace confirmed his departure with immediate effect.

Vaccarello will present his first collection for Saint Laurent Paris in October at the Paris fashion week.

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Toyota forms company to make technology simpler

DETROIT (AP) — Toyota is forming a new data science company in partnership with Microsoft that's designed to free customers "from the tyranny of technology."

The company called Toyota Connected has a goal of simplifying technology so it's easier to use, perhaps even getting rid of distracting and complicated touch screens that now are in most cars and replacing them with heads-up or voice-activated technology.

Like other automakers, Toyota Connected will research connecting cars to each other and to homes, as well as telematics features that learn and anticipate a driver's habits. The move comes as automakers prepare for big changes in transportation, including steps toward self-driving cars.

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Soul Train brand acquired by Viacom's BET Networks

NEW YORK (AP) — Soul Train is on track for acquisition by BET Networks, the company announced Monday.

Assets acquired include one of the largest libraries of African-American, music-oriented content in the world, including over 1,100 television episodes and 40 television specials, the company said.

Owning Soul Train's intellectual property will allow BET to further build on the success of the Soul Train Awards, which BET re-launched in 2009, and strengthens the network's commitment to original content.

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The Dow Jones industrial average fell 55.75 points, or 0.3 percent, to 17,737. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 6.65 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,066.13. The Nasdaq composite index was down 22.75 points, or 0.5 percent, to 4,891.80.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.09, or 3 percent, $35.70 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 98 cents to $37.69 a barrel in London. In other energy markets, heating oil fell 4 cents to $1.089 a gallon, wholesale gasoline futures fell 2 cents to $1.377 a gallon and natural gas rose 4 cents to $1.998 per thousand cubic feet.