COMPANY NEWS IN BRIEF

14 January 2022 | Business

Foxconn plant restarts production

Apple Inc supplier Foxconn restarted production at its plant in southern India on Wednesday, a company official said, over three weeks after it was closed because of protests over workers falling sick.

The company official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the factory reopened with one shift and 120 workers, adding it would take over two months for the plant to produce at full capacity.

The plant, in the town of Sriperumbudur near the Tamil Nadu state capital of Chennai, employs about 17,000 people but was closed on Dec. 18 after 250 workers fell sick with food poisoning, sparking protests. Workers previously told Reuters the plant generally operates three shifts.

Apple declined to comment on Wednesday, but had said on Monday the plant remained on probation, and that it would continue monitoring conditions at workers' dormitories and dining halls, along with independent auditors.

Apple and Foxconn had previously found some worker dormitories and dining rooms did not meet required standards, forcing the Taiwan-based company to restructure its local management team and take immediate steps to improve facilities. -Reuters

King Soopers workers on strike

More than 8 000 workers at nearly 80 King Soopers stores went on strike for better wages and benefits on Wednesday after the latest round of negotiations between the Kroger Co-owned Colorado chain and the union failed.

The strike started at 7:00 a.m. ET. The workers on strike work at King Soopers stores in the Denver metropolitan area, Boulder, Parker and Broomfield cities of Colorado, UFCW Local 7 said.

This is the latest in a string of labor strikes in the United States following similar events at Kellogg Co's US cereal plants and Deere & Co as rising cases of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 and inflation pushes workers to demand higher wages and better working conditions.

At King Soopers, workers have sought an increase in wages of at least US$6 per hour for all. However, the company's "last, best and final offer" proposed raises of up to US$4.50 per hour based on job classification and tenure, which was the same as its previous proposal.

The company's final offer, which was made on Tuesday, said it will invest US$170 million in wages and bonuses in total over the next three years. It will offer a starting pay of US$16 per hour and will invest more in healthcare benefits. -Reuters

Singapore Airlines raises millions

Singapore Airlines Ltd said on Thursday it had raised US$600 million in a US dollar bond deal to help fund aircraft purchases and repay existing borrowings as it grapples with lower travel demand amid rising Omicron infections.

The seven-year notes, its second US dollar bond offering, have a coupon of 3.375%. A year ago, it raised US$500 million in a five-year issue with a 3% coupon.

The airline was aiming to raise between US$500 million and US$750 million, two sources with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Tuesday.

The Singapore government last month froze the sale of tickets for arriving flights under its quarantine-free travel programme for four weeks, citing the risk from the fast-spreading Omicron Covid-19 variant.

Before this offering, the airline had raised S$21.6 billion (US$16 billion) of liquidity during the pandemic and had untapped debt facilities of S$2.1 billion as of Sept. 30, according to its latest financial results presentation. -Reuters

California informs Tesla on regulation

California has informed Tesla it is considering stricter regulation of the electric carmaker's driving assistance tools currently being tested on public roads, following videos posted online of disturbing episodes.

Several clips on YouTube and Twitter show drivers testing Full Self-Driving beta and suddenly having to regain control of their vehicles to prevent their Tesla from hitting a pole or veering into the oncoming lane.

Tesla has noted the tools require active driver supervision, but the California Department of Motor Vehicles said in a letter to the firm on January 5 it is reviewing whether the features meet the definition of an autonomous vehicle.

Elon Musk's car company has recruited some motorists for real-conditions tests of FSD beta, which is supposed to be able to drive in the city, stop automatically or make turns.

California's DMV wrote in its letter that it is revisiting its "classification decision following recent software updates, videos showing dangerous use of that technology and open investigations" from US regulators. -AFP

TPG raises US$1 billion in IPO

Private-equity firm TPG said on Wednesday it raised US$1 billion in its US initial public offering (IPO) at a valuation of US$9.1 billion.

TPG’s stock market debut comes a decade after most of its major peers went public. The firm spent years recovering from a string of poor investments in the 2000s and diversifying its private-equity platform into growth and social impact investing.

With the shares of many publicly listed private-equity firms hovering near all-time highs, and peers such as EQT AB and Bridgepoint Group Plc having launched IPOs in the last three years that were well-received by the market, TPG decided now was the time to follow suit.

It braved a choppy market. Three other IPOs, including that of TypTap Insurance Group, were cancelled this week, as investor concerns about raging inflation and higher interest rates fuelled market volatility.

TPG said on Wednesday it priced its IPO at US$29.50 per share. The buyout firm had said this week it planned to sell the shares at between US$28 and US$31 apiece. -Reuters

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