COMPANY NEWS IN BRIEF

15 January 2021 | Business

AB InBev completes Vietnam merger

Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world's largest beer maker, has completed its merger in Vietnam with SAB Beer after securing approval from the country's trade ministry, state media reported.

Vietnam, with a population of nearly 98 million, is one of the most attractive markets in Asia for brewers, with beer sales seen growing by about 10% per year on average over the decade 2010-2020. It is one of Asia's biggest beer consumers by volume.

The merged company would have the capacity and resources to operate with higher productivity, to be more competitive and offer better quality to the Vietnamese market, VNA said, citing Truong Van Toan, AB InBev Legal and Corporate Affairs Director for Southeast Asia.

Vietnam's trade ministry and AB InBev did not immediately respond to requests for confirmation.

AB InBev's more than US$100 billion takeover of SAB Miller in 2016 brought together its Budweiser, Stella Artois and Corona brands with SABMiller's Peroni, Grolsch and Pilsner Urquell. It brews almost a third of the world's beer. - Nampa/Reuters

US asks Tesla to recall 158 000 vehicles

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on Wednesday asked Tesla Inc to recall 158 000 Model S and Model X vehicles over media control unit (MCU) failures that could pose safety risks by leading to touchscreen displays not working.

The auto safety agency made the unusual request in a formal letter to Tesla after upgrading a safety probe in November, saying it had tentatively concluded the 2012-2018 Model S and 2016-2018 Model X vehicles "contain a defect related to motor vehicle safety."

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment but it must respond to NHTSA by Jan. 27. If it does not agree it must provide the agency "with a full explanation of its decision."

It is unusual for the agency to formally demand a recall. Automakers typically voluntarily agree to a recall if sought in discussions by regulators. NHTSA added that "during our review of the data, Tesla provided confirmation that all units will inevitably fail given the memory device finite storage capacity."

NHTSA said other automakers have issued numerous recalls for similar safety issues, the agency told Tesla, including a detailed list of prior call backs. - Nampa/Reuters

J&J vaccine on track for March rollout

Johnson & Johnson is on track to roll out its single-shot coronavirus vaccine in March, and expects to have clear data on how effective it is by the end of this month or early February, the US healthcare company's chief scientific officer said.

Dr Paul Stoffels in an interview on Tuesday also said J&J expects to meet its stated target of delivering 1 billion doses of its vaccine by the end of this year as the company ramps up production.

Stoffels said it was premature to say how many doses would be available in March, presuming the company receives emergency authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration.

The New York Times reported earlier on Wednesday that J&J was experiencing manufacturing delays that would reduce the number of doses on hand initially.

"We are aiming for 1 billion doses in 2021. If it is a single dose, that means 1 billion people. But it will be in a ramp-up throughout the year," Stoffels said.

Johnson & Johnson's vaccine is being produced in the United States, Europe, South Africa and India with the help of contract manufacturers in order to build capacity. - Nampa/Reuters

Air Canada to cut jobs

Air Canada said it would cut first-quarter capacity by an additional 25% as measures to combat Covid-19 hit bookings, while two well-placed sources said talks over a federal aid package had stalled.

Air Canada and rival WestJet Airlines faced with huge slumps in demand have been negotiating with the Liberal government since November. Progress is very slow amid disagreements over what Ottawa should offer, said the sources.

Air Canada said capacity in the first quarter would be about 20% of what it was during the first three months of 2019. The latest move by Canada's biggest carrier will mean a workforce reduction of about 1 700 employees.

WestJet said last week it would reduce capacity, with schedule cuts that would mean furloughs, layoffs, unpaid leaves or reduced hours.

The Liberal government says it is prepared to help the carriers but insists they reinstate regional routes they have suspended amid low demand, and refund passengers for tickets they can no longer use. - Nampa/Reuters

Singapore Airlines raises US$500 mln

Singapore Airlines has raised US$500 million in its first US dollar bond issue, which the company will use to buy new aircraft as the global aviation industry prepares for a post-pandemic travel rebound.

The transaction was finalised early Thursday and the price was set at US treasuries plus 260 basis points, according to a statement from the airline.

The size of the 5.5-year deal was finalised after bookrunners received bids above US$2.85 billion and the bond carries a 3% coupon rate, the statement said.

"The issuance further strengthens the company’s liquidity position and provides SIA with the financial flexibility to capture medium to long term growth beyond the Covid-19 pandemic," it said.

Airlines are growing increasingly optimistic travel will resume later this year as a number of countries roll out vaccination campaigns to combat Covid-19.

Singapore Airlines is the first major airline in Asia to tap the global debt markets in 2021, following a rush of deals in the second half of 2020.- Nampa/Reuters

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