World Business & Finance

Business & Finance News from across the world.

FedEx to cut up to 6,300 jobs in Europe over next 18 months

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — FedEx plans to cut up to 6,300 jobs in Europe as it completes the process of folding a Dutch company it bought into its own delivery operation.FedEx said in a statement Tuesday that the cuts will take place over 18 months and include express-delivery operations and back-office employees of TNT Express across the continent. Memphis, Tennessee-based FedEx said severance payments will cost between $300 million and $575 million through 2023, but that the job cuts will save the company between $275 million and $350 million a year beginning in 2024. The president of FedEx’s European express-delivery operation, Karen Reddington, said in a statement that the job cuts are crucial to make the company more competitive in a changing market.FedEx plans to downgrade an air-service hub in Liege, Belgium, to make Paris its sole primary hub. The company compared that set-up to its U.S. operation, where Memphis is the main hub and Indianapolis serves a secondary role.FedEx paid $4.8 billion to acquire TNT in 2016 and expand its presence in Europe against rivals such as Germany-based DHL. TNT had a major ground-delivery business in Europe. In buying TNT, FedEx succeeded where U.S. rival United Parcel Service had failed – European regulators blocked a UPS attempt to buy the company in 2013, arguing that a UPS-TNT combination would face inadequate competition on some routes and lead to higher prices.FedEx hoped TNT would help it take advantage of the growth in online shopping in Europe, but the acquisition has not gone smoothly.Europe was in the midst of an economic slowdown. Then TNT’s computer systems became infected during a worldwide cyberattack called NotPetya, causing FedEx to take a $300 million charge against earnings in 2017.FedEx said Tuesday that it has successfully integrated FedEx and TNT information-technology systems and key parts of the air and ground networks.

Pompeo says China's policies on Muslims amount to 'genocide'

WASHINGTON (AP) — On his way out the door, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has hit China with new sanctions by declaring that China’s policies on Muslims and ethnic minorities in western Xinjiang Province constitute a “genocide.”Pompeo made the determination on Tuesday just 24 hours before President-elect Joe Biden takes office. There was no immediate response from the incoming Biden team, although several members have been sympathetic to such a designation in the past. Pompeo’s determination does not come with any immediate repercussions.Many of those accused of having taken part in repression in Xinjiang are already under U.S. sanctions, and Tuesday's move is the latest in a series of steps the outgoing Trump administration has taken against China.Since last year, the administration has steadily ramped up pressure on Beijing, imposing sanctions on numerous officials and companies for their activities in Taiwan, Tibet, Hong Kong and the South China Sea. Those penalties have gotten harsher since the beginning of last year when President Donald Trump and Pompeo began to accuse China of trying to cover up the coronavirus pandemic. Just on Saturday, Pompeo lifted restrictions on U.S. diplomatic contacts with Taiwanese officials, prompting a stern rebuke from China, which regards the island as a renegade province.Five days ago, the administration announced it would halt imports of cotton and tomatoes from Xinjiang with Customs and Border Protection officials saying they would block products from there suspected of being produced with forced labor.Xinjiang is a major global supplier of cotton, so the order could have significant effects on international commerce. The Trump administration has already blocked imports from individual companies linked to forced labor in the region, and the U.S. has imposed sanctions on Communist Party officials with prominent roles in the campaign.China has imprisoned more than 1 million people, including Uighurs and other mostly Muslim ethnic groups, in a vast network of concentration camps, according to U.S. officials and human rights groups. People have been subjected to torture, sterilization and political indoctrination in addition to forced labor as part of an assimilation campaign in a region whose inhabitants are ethnically and culturally distinct from the Han Chinese majority.China has denied all the charges, but Uighur forced labor has been linked by reporting from The Associated Press to various products imported to the U.S., including clothing and electronic goods such as cameras and computer monitors. China says its policies in Xinjiang aim only to promote economic and social development in the region and stamp out radicalism. It also rejects criticism of what it considers its internal affairs.___ Ben Fox contributed.

Carl Icahn nixes charity bid to blow up ex-Trump casino

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — An auction house trying to raise money for a youth charity by soliciting bids to blow up a former casino once owned by President Donald Trump called off the effort Monday after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from conservative billionaire Carl Icahn.Icahn told The Associated Press his philanthropic arm will donate $175,000 to the Boys and Girls Club of Atlantic City to replace money that would have been raised by a charity auction of the right to press the button to demolish the former Trump Plaza casino.He owns the former casino, which has been in the process of demolition for months.Icahn's decision came shortly after Bodnar's Auction canceled its solicitation of bids, citing a letter from Icahn's company instructing it not to proceed with the auction because it considered the public “spectacle” to be a safety risk, with the possibility of flying debris injuring the person pressing the demolition button, or others gathered nearby.“From the beginning, we thought the auction and any other related spectacle presented a safety risk, and we were always clear that we would not participate in any way,” a spokesman for Icahn said in a statement. Last month, Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small announced the auction as a fundraising mechanism he hoped would raise in excess of $1 million for the organization.Opened in 1984, Trump’s former casino was closed in 2014 and has fallen into such a state of disrepair that demolition work began last year. The remainder of the structure was to have been dynamited on Jan. 29, but that date has been pushed back.Small said he will announce the new demolition date on Thursday.The auction house said Monday it had no choice but to cancel the auction after hearing from Icahn's company.“After exhausting every avenue to bring the parties together to make this exciting event happen, we received the final decision from (Icahn) that we must cease and desist," Bodnar Auctions wrote in a post on its website. Company owner Joseph Bodnar told The Associated Press Monday he is working with Small to come up with a future auction “if possible.”Small acknowledged the auction's cancellation and praised Icahn for replacing the money it would have raised.“We agree with Mr. Icahn that public safety is paramount,” he said. “It is very important that we maintain a positive relationship with Mr. Icahn because the next conversation we need to have is what should be developed there."Trump, then a real-estate developer, opened the casino in a prime spot at the center of Atlantic City’s Boardwalk where the Atlantic City Expressway deposited cars entering the resort. It was the site of many high-profile boxing matches, which Trump would regularly attend.Trump cut most ties with Atlantic City in 2009 aside from a 10% fee for the use of his name on what were then three casinos in the city. That stake was extinguished when Icahn took ownership of the company out of bankruptcy court in February 2016.___Follow Wayne Parry at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC

Biden picks Chopra, Gensler for financial oversight roles

WASHINGTON (AP) — President-elect Joe Biden is set to nominate Rohit Chopra as the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, tapping a progressive ally of Sen. Elizabeth Warren to helm the agency whose creation she championed.Chopra, a commissioner at the Federal Trade Commission, helped launch the agency after the 2008 financial crisis and served as deputy director, where he sounded the alarm about skyrocketing levels of student loan debt. The pick comes as Democrats are eyeing ways to provide student loan relief to millions of Americans as part of a COVID-19 relief package.Biden announced the move Monday, along with his intent to nominate Gary Gensler, the former chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, as the next chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Gensler, a former Goldman Sachs banker, enhanced oversight of the complicated financial transactions that helped cause the Great Recession.

Insider Q&A: Mark Weinstein, MeWe's anti-Facebook CEO

BOSTON (AP) — Some users have fled Facebook and Twitter after the platforms booted President Donald Trump and some of his confederates for inciting unrest and spreading false claims about election fraud. Some migrated to far-right friendly sites like Parler or Gab. Others joined a service that aims to stand apart. MeWe is a 4-year-old, full-featured social media company positioned as an anti-Facebook. It says it does not collect data on its users, and features a Privacy Bill of Rights. In the past year, MeWe more than doubled its membership to nearly 15 million. In the week ending Jan. 12, it was downloaded 787,000 times from Apple and Google's U.S. smartphone app stores, according to SensorTower.While Trump supporters’ disaffection with Facebook has surely helped, CEO Mark Weinstein says MeWe owes its growth to “everyone who is infuriated by their data being sold down the river” by surveillance capitalists.Weinstein spoke to The Associated Press from his southern California home. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.Q: Where are your members? Under your “freemium” model, how many people pay for services such as additional data storage and video calling?A: The members are 50% in North America, about 24% in Asia, 24% in Europe and 2% in Australia. Some are in South America, in Brazil and Argentina. We’re translated into 20 languages. Currently 3% to 4% of our members sign up for premium. We haven't spent a penny on marketing. All our growth is organic.Q: What does your capital investment and revenue look like? Who is behind the company?A: We’ve got about $22 million from high net worth investors and our advisory board includes Tim Berners-Lee, founder of the World Wide Web, and Sherry Turkle, perhaps the most esteemed academic expert on the impact of technology on human beings. We have fewer than 100 employees and we did $1.2 million in revenue in 2020. Revenue grew 300 percent from November to December.Q: Your terms of service are explicit about prohibiting hateful and inciteful content and insist it will be promptly taken down. But I’ve seen some incendiary language in chats. The watchdog Alethea Group reported similar, and it was apparently taken down. How can you be sure you are adequately moderating the site, especially amid a growth spurt you say has hit 20,000 new users an hour? How many moderators do you have?A: Social media can get messy in times like these. And just like Facebook and Twitter, and other sites that also moderate we are doing the very best we can. We are expanding our moderation team as rapidly as we can, and we’re investigating reports from our members, who are helping. (Weinstein would not disclose the size of his moderation team.)Q: You say MeWe is not built, as its big competitors are, to serve up politically charged material.A: We are absolutely not an opinion chamber of one side or another. We are fundamentally different by design from Twitter or Parler or Gab. We’re a social media platform like Facebook, where family members and friends connect. Your news feed is purely and exclusively everything you choose to connect to. There is nothing injected into your news feed by us or anybody else on the platform. We don’t have trending topics. We don’t have boosted content.Q: What is your stance on potentially dangerous speech and misinformation of the type that could, say adversely impact public health during a global pandemic?A: We have absolutely no censorship for good people who follow our rules. We don’t care what your opinion is, if you’re on the right or the left. That’s none of our business. Also, MeWe’s structural design prohibits the amplification (of misinformation). Members do moderation for us, but a very deep violation can lead to immediate removal and being reported to outside authorities. For others, a member can be placed “in jail” — temporarily suspended — and then a three-strike rule applies. Q: You said in a 2019 op-ed piece that you don’t believe that breaking up Facebook will solve the problem of competition in social media. Is that still your thinking?A: Breaking up Facebook would just create a lot of mini-Facebooks. It doesn’t solve the problem of surveillance capitalism. Facebook has lobbyists worldwide influencing legislation and government officials. And it doesn’t comply with regulations, anyhow. Regulating Facebook more carefully will only serve to institutionalize surveillance capitalism, make it harder for competition and sort of legitimize their business model, which is really an illegitimate form of capitalism. Pure capitalism is, plain and simple, delight your customer, build a relationship of love and trust. Respect them and they will be your customer for a lifetime. Facebook has completely broken that bond. Facebook is a marketing company. Facebook is a data company. They’re not a true social network. Their customers are advertisers, marketers and political operatives. MeWe’s customers are its members.

Ralph Lauren drops Justin Thomas after gay slur heard on TV

HONOLULU (AP) — Ralph Lauren Corp. said Friday it is ending its sponsorship with Justin Thomas after he was heard muttering a homophobic slur to himself after missing a putt last week in Hawaii.Thomas has worn the company's clothing since he turned pro. He has reached No. 1 in the world briefly on two occasions, won a major at age 24 and captured the FedEx Cup in 2017.In the third round of the Sentry Tournament of Champions, he missed a 5-foot par putt on the fourth hole. He could be heard saying the slur under his breath as he tapped in.Ralph Lauren said it was “disheartened” by his language.“We believe in the dignity of all people, regardless of age, race, gender identity, ethnicity, political affiliation or sexual orientation,” Ralph Lauren said in a statement. “In reflecting on the responsibility we have to all of our stakeholders, we have decided to discontinue our sponsorship of Mr. Thomas at this time.”Thomas was on an overseas vacation and could not immediately be contacted. He is playing in Abu Dhabi next week on the European Tour.He apologized after this third round, and then again Sunday when he finished one shot out of the playoff.“It’s inexcusable,” Thomas said. “First off, I just apologize. I’m an adult. I’m a grown man, there’s absolutely no reason for me to say anything like that. It’s terrible. I’m extremely embarrassed. It’s not who I am, it’s not the kind of person that I am or anything that I do. Unfortunately, I did it and I have to own up to it and I’m very apologetic.”It wound up costing him.“While we acknowledge that he has apologized and recognizes the severity of his words, he is a paid ambassador of our brand and his actions conflict with the inclusive culture that we strive to uphold,” the company said in a statement.Ralph Lauren said it hopes Thomas “does the hard and necessary work in order to partner with us again – truly examining this incident, learning, growing and ultimately using his platform to promote inclusion.”The Human Rights Campaign, the largest LBGTQ advocacy group in the country, last year designated Ralph Lauren as “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality.”

Merkel's party opens convention to choose new leader

BERLIN (AP) — Chancellor Angela Merkel opened a party convention Friday that will see members choose a new leader of her center-right Christian Democrats, a decision that will help shape German voters' choice of her successor after 16 years in office.Merkel, 66, has been looked on by many as a bedrock of stability at the helm of Europe's largest economy through multiple crises, most recently the coronavirus pandemic, but said two years ago she will not seek a fifth term as chancellor. In an opening statement, Merkel said that since she was first elected chancellor in 2005 the world had “changed dramatically,” noting the rise of Chinese power and the ubiquity of smart phones. She rattled off a laundry-list of accomplishments including the reduction of unemployment to historic lows, the implementation of a minimum wage, a regularly balanced budget and a drastic increase in the use of renewable energy. “We can all be proud,” she said. In the online convention, members of the Christian Democratic Union are choosing Saturday between three men to take over as leader of the party, a role that Merkel gave up in 2018. That person will either run for chancellor in Germany's Sept. 26 election, or have a large say in who does.Merkel's preferred candidate, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer who took over as party leader when Merkel herself stepped down, announced her resignation last February after failing to impose her authority on the party.There is no clear front-runner among the three candidates: Friedrich Merz, a 65-year-old who is more conservative than Merkel and has been in the private sector for about a decade; Armin Laschet, the 59-year-old governor of North Rhine-Westphalia who is viewed as likely to continue Merkel's centrist approach; and Norbert Roettgen, 55, who was fired by Merkel as environment minister and calls himself a candidate for the “modern center.”Analysts predict no candidate will emerge after the first ballot as the clear winner, prompting a run-off vote between the top two. The latest polls suggest, however, that the strongest candidate for chancellor is none of the three, but rather Markus Soeder, the leader of the Christian Democratic Union's Bavarian-only sister party, the Christian Social Union.Soeder, the Bavarian governor, has gained in stature during the coronavirus pandemic as a strong advocate of tough restrictions.The conservative bloc last ran a CSU candidate for chancellor in 2002 — then-Bavarian Governor Edmund Stoiber — who lost to Social Democrat Gerhard Schroeder.In a poll released Friday by ZDF public television, Soeder was seen by voters asked a yes/no question as the politician most suitable for chancellor, with 54 percent saying yes. Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, the candidate for chancellor of the struggling center-left Social Democrats, currently Merkel’s junior coalition partner, was second with 45 percent.By comparison, Roettgen and Merz both polled 29 percent, while Laschet sat at 28. Current Health Minister Jens Spahn, himself a member of Merkel's CDU, got 32 percent and is seen by many within the party as a possible candidate for chancellor himself. The poll, conducted Jan. 12-14 over the phone by Mannheim's Forschungsgruppe Wahlen, had a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.

Walmart's e-commerce chief to leave after nearly 5 years

NEW YORK (AP) — Marc Lore, Walmart's e-commerce chief, is leaving the world's largest retailer, nearly five years after he joined to super charge its online business amid stiffer competition from online leader Amazon.Under Lore's stewardship, Walmart led the redesign of the company's website and app, expanded its online assortment from 10 million items to more than 80 million and transformed its delivery network to add two -day and same day delivery. Lore, who served as CEO of Walmart's e-commerce division, joined the company in September 2016 when Walmart bought Jet.com, an e-commerce company he founded, for more than $3 billion. Jet’s pricing technology was built on an algorithm that determined which sellers were the most efficient in value and shipping and adjusted prices based on what items were in the checkout cart as well as how far the desired products are from the shoppers’ home. Walmart has phased out the Jet business and incorporated some of the technology into the overall business.“Since the Jet acquisition, we've seen our e-commerce growth accelerate, including rapid growth in our online grocery business," said Doug McMillon, Walmart president and CEO, in a memo to employees. ”Marc's leadership helped ensure we were positioned to respond to the demand driven by the pandemic this year."He added, “Marc committed to a minimum of five years with us, which I know felt like a long time for an entrepreneur like him and that time has flown by."Lore also brought to the role a rich e-commerce resume as founder of Quidsi, the parent of Diapers.com, which was bought by Amazon for $500 million in 2010. Lore notified Walmart on Thursday of his intent to leave on Jan. 31, according to a regulatory filing. He will continue to serve in a consulting role as a strategic adviser to the company through September. After Lore leaves, the U.S. business, including all aspects of U.S. retail e-commerce, will continue to report to John Furner, CEO of Walmart's U.S. operations. _______Follow Anne D’Innocenzio: http://twitter.com/ADInnocenzio

Disneyland ends annual passes 10 months after virus closure

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Disneyland is ending its annual pass program 10 months after the theme park shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic, the theme park said Thursday.The park in Anaheim, California, said it would begin issuing pro-rated refunds to eligible passholders. “Due to the continued uncertainty of the pandemic and limitations around the reopening of our California theme parks, we will be issuing appropriate refunds for eligible Disneyland Resort Annual Passports and sunsetting the current program,” Ken Potrock, president of Disneyland Resort, said in a statement. He said the park will develop new membership offerings for when it can reopen.Disney officials would not say how many people hold these passes or how much the move will cost the company. The announcement comes the same week that Disneyland allowed county health officials to use its parking lot for a large-scale coronavirus vaccination site.Disneyland closed in March and has not reopened since because coronavirus metrics in the county where the park is located have not declined to the levels required by the state. California health officials have said large amusement parks like Disneyland can only reopen once transmission reaches minimal levels, and then park capacity will be limited to 25% and reservations required.California has seen a surge in coronavirus cases in recent months that has prompted a shutdown of many businesses and nighttime curfews in much of the state.

WhatsApp growth slumps as rivals Signal, Telegram rise

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Encrypted messaging apps Signal and Telegram are seeing huge upticks in downloads from Apple and Google’s app stores. Facebook-owned WhatsApp, by contrast, is seeing its growth decline following a fiasco that forced the company to clarify a privacy update it had sent to users. Mobile app analytics firm Sensor Tower said Wednesday that Signal saw 17.8 million app downloads on Apple and Google during the week of Jan. 5 to Jan. 12. That’s a 61-fold increase from just 285,000 the previous week. Telegram, an already-popular messaging app for people around the world, saw 15.7 million downloads in the Jan. 5 to Jan. 12 period, roughly twice the 7.6 million downloads it saw the previous week.WhatsApp, meanwhile, saw downloads shrink to 10.6 million, down from 12.7 million the week before.Experts fear the shift may reflect a rush of conservative social media users seeking alternatives to platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and the now-shuttered right-wing site Parler. The mainstream sites suspended President Donald Trump last week and have tightened enforcement on violent incitement and hate speech.Parler, meanwhile, was unceremoniously booted from the internet after Apple and Google banned it from their app stores for failing to moderate incitement. Amazon then cut Parler off from its its cloud-hosting service. Experts worry that these moves could lead to more ideological splintering and further hide extremism in the dark corners of the internet, making it harder to track and counteract. WhatsApp didn't do itself any favors when it recently told users that if they don't accept a new privacy policy by Feb. 8, they'll be cut off. The notice referenced the data WhatsApp shares with Facebook, which while not entirely new, may have struck some users that way.Confusion about the notice, complicated by Facebook’s history of privacy mishaps, forced WhatsApp to clarify its update to users this week. The company said that its update “does not affect the privacy of your messages with friends or family in any way," adding that the policy changes were necessary to allow users to message businesses on WhatsApp. The notice "provides further transparency about how we collect and use data,” the company said.WhatsApp is still by far the most popular messaging app of the three, and so far there's no evidence of a mass exodus. Sensor Tower estimates that Signal has been installed about 58.6 million times globally since 2014. In that same period Telegram has seen about 755.2 million installations and WhatsApp a whopping 5.6 billion — almost eight times as many as Telegram.