COMPANY NEWS IN BRIEF

07 January 2021 | Business

Alibaba plans US$5 billion bond this month

China’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd plans to raise at least US$5 billion through the sale of a US dollar-denominated bond this month, four people with knowledge of the matter said, amid regulatory scrutiny of co-founder Jack Ma’s empire.

Depending on investor response, proceeds could reach US$8 billion which the e-commerce leader is likely to use for general corporate expenditure, one of the people said.

The fundraising will be a test of investor sentiment towards Alibaba, coming months after an October speech from billionaire Ma about regulation stifling innovation that led to the halting of affiliate Ant Group’s US$37 billion stock market listing.

Ma’s absence from public view in the intervening time has fuelled social media speculation over his whereabouts.

The bond sale plan, including timeline, is not finalised and is subject to change, the people said, all of whom declined to be identified as they were not authorised to speak to the media. Alibaba declined to comment. - Nampa/Reuters

Macy's to close 45 stores this year

Department store operator Macy’s Inc said on Tuesday it would close about 45 stores this year as part of its three-year plan to lower store count in order to focus on its more productive outlets.

Even before the lockdowns in the United States last year, Macy’s had announced the plan to close 125 of its least productive stores to tackle plummeting mall traffic. It had closed about 30 stores in 2020.

“Macy’s is committed to rightsizing our store fleet by concentrating our existing retail locations in desirable and well-trafficked A and B malls,” Macy’s said in a statement on Tuesday.

The Covid-19 outbreak has worsened the plight of certain mall-based chains, forcing them to shutter stores and double down on their online business, while few chains are looking to open smaller stores in off-mall locations.

Macy’s, which operates over 750 shops, including Bluemercury, Bloomingdale’s and its eponymous stores, said it would post a list of stores expected to be closed this year on its website on Wednesday. - Nampa/Reuters

Apple to modify executive bonuses

Apple Inc said in its annual proxy filing on Tuesday that it will modify executive cash bonuses based on whether the executives act within the company’s social and environmental values.

The iPhone maker did not specify how it would evaluate progress toward the company’s publicly stated targets such as removing carbon from its supply chain.

Apple lists six values that include environmental practices such as using recycled materials in products, diversity and inclusion among its workforce and the privacy and security of its devices.

“Beginning in 2021, an environmental, social, and governance modifier based on Apple Values and other key community initiatives will be incorporated into our annual cash incentive program,” the filing said.

Apple said its minimum performance requirements, its targets and its maximum pay-outs of cash bonuses to executives will not change. – Nampa/Reuters

Tiffany posts record holiday sales

US jeweller Tiffany & Co said it reported record sales for the 2020 holiday period as consumers stuck at home shopped more online and shoppers in China spent more on jewellery.

The company, which will soon be bought by France’s LVMH, said its overall preliminary net sales rose about 2% for the period Nov. 1 through Dec. 31, compared with a year earlier, with e-commerce sales surging more than 80% during the period.

The 2020 holiday season was unusual as the virus outbreak upended shopping patterns, with more consumers avoiding malls and retail stores and opting to shop online.

Tiffany, known for its engagement rings and robin’s egg blue boxes, said net sales in the Asia-Pacific region soared 20%, with mainland China posting a growth of over 50%.

“During this period, we saw the Chinese Mainland market continue to drive our overall sales growth,” Chief Executive Officer Alessandro Bogliolo said. – Nampa/Reuters

P&G, Billie terminate planned merger

Procter & Gamble Co and Billie Inc, which sells women’s razors and other body care products, have decided to terminate their planned merger agreement, the two companies said on Tuesday.

The US Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint in December aiming to stop the deal. “We were disappointed by the FTC’s decision and maintain there was exciting potential in combining Billie with P&G to better serve more consumers around the world,” the companies said in a joint statement.

The FTC had said that Billie sold quality razors for women at a moderate price while P&G was a market leader in the sale of all wet shave razors. In its marketing, Billie highlights the so-called pink tax, collected by companies that charge women more than men for similar products.

“Billie is a direct-to-consumer company whose advertising targets customers who are tired of paying more for comparable razors,” said Ian Conner, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, in a statement. “The FTC voted to challenge this merger because it would have eliminated dynamic competition from Billie,” Conner added.

The P&G deal for Billie, which began selling its products in November 2017, was announced in January 2020. – Nampa/Reuters

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