Company news in brief

24 December 2021 | Business

Boeing suspends vaccine mandate

Boeing Co suspended its coronavirus vaccination requirement for US-based employees, capping weeks of uncertainty as thousands of workers sought exemptions and challenges to a federal mandate played out in court.

In an internal announcement, Boeing said its decision came after a review of a US District Court ruling earlier this month that halted the enforcement of president Joe Biden's vaccine requirement for federal contractors.

Some big healthcare chains and companies such as General Electric, Spirit AeroSystems, and Amtrak have also suspended vaccine mandates for workers.

In recent weeks, the number of Boeing employees seeking a vaccine exemption on religious or medical grounds had reached more than 11 000 - or nearly 9% of its US workforce - a level many times higher than executives initially estimated.

Boeing's vaccination requirement has resulted in more than 92% of US-based workers having registered as being fully vaccinated, or having received a religious or medical accommodation. - Reuters

US opens investigation into Tesla

US auto safety regulators said they have opened a formal safety investigation into 580 000 Tesla vehicles sold since 2017 over the automaker's decision to allow games to be played on the front centre touchscreen.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said its preliminary evaluation covers various 2017-2022 Tesla Model 3, S, X, and Y vehicles. This functionality, referred to as “Passenger Play,” "may distract the driver and increase the risk of a crash," the agency said.

NHTSA said it has "confirmed that this capability has been available since December 2020 in Tesla 'Passenger Play'-equipped vehicles." Before then, the game feature "was enabled only when the vehicle was in Park."

The agency said the decision to open the investigation was based on reports "Tesla’s gameplay functionality is visible from the driver's seat and can be enabled while driving the vehicle."

Tesla did not immediately comment. - Reuters

Discovery may acquire WarnerMedia

Discovery Inc said the European Commission has granted unconditional antitrust approval to its proposed acquisition of WarnerMedia assets from AT&T Inc.

The regulatory approval moves the deal one step closer to being finalised. Discovery has said it expects to complete its WarnerMedia transaction by mid-2022, subject to other regulatory approvals.

AT&T announced in May that it would spin off its WarnerMedia division and merge it with Discovery, effectively unwinding its US$85 billion acquisition of Time Warner that closed in 2018. - Reuters

Ryanair doubles annual loss forecast

Ryanair more than doubled its annual loss forecast and cut its January traffic estimate by 33%, blaming travel restrictions in France, Germany and Morocco following the emergence of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

The Irish low-cost airline, Europe's largest by passenger numbers, flew more than twice as many flights within the continent in the second week of December as any other airline, according to Eurocontrol, Europe's air traffic regulator.

But restrictions on British passengers flying to Germany and France - and all EU passengers to Morocco - forced Ryanair to cut its December passenger forecast to a range of 9 to 9.5 million, from 10 to 11 million, a company statement said.

Chief executive Michael O'Leary, one of the most outspoken critics of Covid-19 travel restrictions, last week said the mood in Britain and Ireland in the face of Omicron was one of "panic".

As a result of the cuts, Ryanair, which just last month announced its first quarterly profit since the start of the pandemic, now expects to post a net loss of between 250 million euro (US$283 million) and 450 million in the 12 months to the end of March.

That is down from its earlier forecast of a loss of between 100 million and 200 million euro. - Reuters

Tencent shareholders get US$16.4 bn

Chinese gaming and social media company Tencent will hand a US$16.4 billion JD.com stake as a dividend to its shareholders, weakening its ties to the e-commerce firm and raising questions about its plans for other holdings.

Tencent said yesterday it will distribute HK$127.69 billion (US$16.37 billion) worth of its JD.com stake to shareholders, slashing its holding in China's second-biggest e-commerce company to 2.3% from around 17% now and losing its spot as JD.com's biggest shareholder to Walmart.

The owner of WeChat, which first invested in JD.com in 2014, said it was the right time to transfer its stake, given the e-commerce firm had reached a stage where it can self-finance its growth.

The divestment move comes as Beijing leads a broad regulatory crackdown on technology firms, taking aim at their overseas growth ambitions and domestic concentration of market power.

The JD.com stake is part of Tencent's portfolio of listed investments valued at US$185 billion as of Sept. 30, including stakes in e-commerce company Pinduoduo, food delivery firm Meituan, video platform Kuaishou, automaker Tesla and streaming service Spotify. - Reuters

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