Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Dec 13, 2016 6:25 PM

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Tech leaders couldn't beat Trump; they'll meet him instead

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Technology leaders are about to come face-to-face with President-elect Donald Trump after fiercely opposing his candidacy, fearful that he would stifle innovation, curb the hiring of computer-savvy immigrants and infringe on consumers' digital privacy.

On Wednesday, a number of Silicon Valley leaders are headed to New York to make their peace — or press their case — with Trump and his advisers. The CEOs planning to attend include those from Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, Amazon, Intel, IBM, Oracle and Cisco Systems.

Facebook's chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, will be on hand instead of its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, who was one of many executives to express misgivings about Trump's pledges.

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With Tillerson, Trump keeps betting big on business leaders

WASHINGTON (AP) — In selecting Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson as his secretary of state, President-elect Donald Trump is making the same bet he asked voters to make on him: that a track record of business accomplishment will translate into success in government.

Trump is broadly testing that proposition across his administration. He's tapped fast food executive Andy Puzder to lead the Labor Department, billionaire investor Wilbur Ross for Commerce, financier Steven Mnuchin as Treasury secretary and Goldman Sachs President Gary Cohn as his top economic adviser.

But he's taking perhaps his biggest chance on Tillerson, pulling an executive from the rough-and-tumble world of oil production into the delicate arena of international diplomacy.

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Dow nears 20,000 as energy companies and tech stocks climb

NEW YORK (AP) — Major U.S. stock indexes set records again Tuesday as energy companies continued to climb following international deals that will cut oil production. Big-name technology companies like Apple and IBM also traded higher as the Dow Jones industrial average closed above 19,900 for the first time.

The Dow finished at an all-time high for the seventh consecutive trading day. The biggest gain went to IBM, while Apple and Exxon Mobil also finished near the top.

Energy companies rose for the ninth day out of the last 10 as investors anticipated steadier oil prices and larger profits. Technology companies also jumped.

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ConAgra to pay $11.2M to settle tainted peanut butter case

ALBANY, Ga. (AP) — A ConAgra subsidiary pleaded guilty Tuesday and agreed to pay $11.2 million — including the largest criminal fine ever imposed for a foodborne illness in the United States — to resolve a decade-long criminal investigation into a nationwide salmonella outbreak blamed on tainted peanut butter.

ConAgra admitted to a single misdemeanor count of shipping adulterated food. No individuals at the leading food conglomerate faced any charges in the 2006 outbreak, which sickened at least 625 people in 47 states.

Disease detectives traced the salmonella to a plant in rural Sylvester, Georgia, that produced peanut butter for ConAgra under the Peter Pan label and the Great Value brand sold at Wal-Mart. In 2007 the company recalled all the peanut butter it had sold since 2004.

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Monsanto shareholders approve Bayer's $57 billion takeover

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Monsanto Co. shareholders on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a $57 billion merger with Bayer AG, a deal that would combine two of the world's biggest agricultural companies.

But the path toward securing regulatory approval may be rough. Critics say the combination would shrink competition in the agricultural market, drive prices higher for farmers and consumers, and escalate damage to the environment. Monsanto and Bayer officials say growers and ranchers stand to benefit, and the combined company will be better suited to address issues like climate change.

Preliminary results showed that 99 percent of all votes cast favored the merger announced in September, St. Louis-based Monsanto said. Shareholders will receive $128 per share in cash at the closing of the merger, which must still receive regulatory approval. Monsanto said the deal is expected to close by the end of 2017.

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Regulators slap curbs on Wells Fargo for 'living will' plan

WASHINGTON — Federal regulators have slapped restrictions on Wells Fargo, finding that the big bank failed to adequately plug holes in the plan it would deploy if it fell into bankruptcy.

The move announced Tuesday by the Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. added to the troubles of Wells Fargo. The bank has been gripped by a scandal over sales practices that brought numerous federal and state investigations, the resignation of its CEO and public outrage.

The regulators' action related to the bank's so-called "living will" plan is unrelated to the scandal over the opening of millions of unauthorized accounts by bank employees. The action bars Wells Fargo from setting up new international banking businesses or buying any nonbank subsidiaries.

San Francisco-based Wells Fargo was the only one of five major banks that failed to meet the regulators' six-month deadline, set in April, for getting their insufficient disaster plans in shape.

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Japanese brewer Asahi to buy East Europe beer brands for $8B

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese brewer the Asahi Group said Tuesday it plans to buy five beer brands in Eastern Europe for 7.3 billion euros ($7.8 billion).

Asahi said Tuesday that the beer brands in the Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, Poland, Hungary and Romania were owned by SABMiller before it was acquired recently by Belgium-based Anheuser-Busch InBev, maker of Budweiser, Corona and Stella Artois.

Japanese companies like Tokyo-based Asahi have been aggressively expanding overseas as their home market shrinks.

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Google's self-driving car project gets a new name: Waymo

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The self-driving car project that Google started seven years ago has grown into a company called Waymo, signaling its confidence that it will be able to bring robot-controlled vehicles to the masses within the next few years.

Waymo's transition from what once was viewed as a longshot experiment to a full-fledged company marks another step in an effort to revolutionize the way people get around.

Instead of driving themselves and having to find a place to park, people will be chauffeured in robot-controlled vehicles if Waymo, automakers and Uber realize their vision within the next few years. Waymo's name is meant to be shorthand for "a new way forward in mobility."

The newly minted company will operate within Google's parent company, Alphabet, which was created last year to oversee far-flung projects that have nothing to do with Google's main business of online search and advertising. Those projects, which Alphabet CEO Larry Page likens to "moonshots," have lost $8 billion since 2014, with the research into self-driving cars accounting for a significant chunk of that amount.

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The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 114.78 points, or 0.6 percent, to 19,911.21. The blue-chip index went as high as 19,953. The Standard & Poor's 500 index picked up 14.76 points, or 0.7 percent, to 2,271.72. The Nasdaq composite climbed 51.29 points, or 0.9 percent, to 5,463.83.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose 15 cents to $52.98 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the international standard, added 3 cents to $55.72 a barrel in London. Wholesale gasoline edged up 1 cent to $1.55 a gallon. Heating oil remained at $1.67 a gallon. Natural gas lost 3 cents to $3.47 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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