Business Highlights


ChemChina offers $43 billion for Swiss pesticide giant Syngenta

HONG KONG (AP) — A Chinese state-owned chemical maker offered to buy Swiss pesticide giant Syngenta for $43 billion in what would be the biggest-ever foreign acquisition by a Chinese company.

Syngenta AG said Wednesday its board is recommending shareholders accept the offer from China National Chemical Corp., also known as ChemChina. Basel-based Syngenta said in a statement that ChemChina’s cash offer is worth the equivalent of 480 francs ($482) a share, including a special 5 franc dividend for shareholders if the deal goes through.

The deal is part of a global acquisition spree by Chinese companies, which are diversifying abroad to counter a slowdown at home while also seeking foreign expertise and technology. Last month Chinese home appliance maker Haier Group bought General Electric’s home appliance business while conglomerate Wanda Group acquired Hollywood movie studio Legendary Entertainment.


Comcast loses fewest TV customers in 8 years

NEW YORK (AP) — Comcast is trumpeting its best year for traditional TV services in nearly a decade, even though it continues to lose TV subscribers.

The number of traditional TV customers is still declining across the industry, and analysts say Comcast’s TV gains are largely coming from competitors, like AT&T and Dish, rather than young new cable customers who have never paid for cable before.

Comcast says it is stemming its losses by luring customers with new TV-Internet packages, while keeping TV customers around for longer with the help of a fancier cable box. The company also says recent investments in customer service, long a blemish on its reputation, have helped.


Survey: US employers added a solid 205K jobs in January

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. businesses added a solid 205,000 jobs last month, lifted by robust gains in services and construction and extending a streak of steady hiring, according to a private survey.

Payroll processor ADP said Wednesday that financial services, retailers and professional services firms also hired at a steady pace. The figures suggest that companies focused on the domestic economy remain healthy, despite gyrations in the financial markets and slowing global growth.

Manufacturers have suffered from the strong dollar, which makes U.S. goods more expensive overseas, and did not add any jobs last month.


Survey: Growth at US services companies slowed in January

WASHINGTON (AP) — A private survey says U.S. services companies grew in January at the slowest rate in nearly two years, as global economic challenges are showing some signs of spreading to consumers.

The Institute for Supply Management said that its services index fell to 53.5 last month from 55.8 in December. The January figure was the lowest since February 2014, when it was 52.6. Still, any reading above 50 signals that services firms are expanding.


North America, China power GM to record $9.7B annual profit

DETROIT (AP) — If you’re an automaker, especially one from Detroit, conditions probably aren’t going to be better for you to make a lot of cash.

For General Motors, that’s what happened last year as the company posted a record $9.7 billion net profit.

Yes, a good chunk of that was a $3.9 billion one-time accounting gain due to better prospects in Europe, but the company still made billions on booming sales of its strong lineup of SUVs and trucks, mainly in North America.


Yum’s sales mixed in China, climb in US

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Yum Brands on Wednesday reported mixed quarterly results for its troubled China unit, which the company is spinning off.

The Louisville, Kentucky company said sales rose 6 per cent at established KFC restaurants in China, while its Pizza Hut sales fell 8 per cent. Jonathan Blum, Yum’s chief public affairs officer, attributed the drop at the pizza chain to the country’s economic slowdown.

Yum has been trying to fix its business in China ever since sales there were slammed by food scares. Executives have also conceded they made marketing missteps. In October, Yum announced plans to spin off the business into a separate, publicly traded company.


Ailing media mogul Sumner Redstone resigns as chair of CBS

NEW YORK (AP) — Sumner Redstone, the ailing 92-year-old media mogul who controls media giants CBS and Viacom, has stepped down as executive chairman of CBS amid a courtroom battle over his health and mental capacity. CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves will replace him as chairman.

Redstone’s resignation took effect Tuesday, leaving him chairman emeritus of CBS, the company said. It did not give an update on his health. Redstone remains executive chairman of Viacom. He effectively controls both companies through a trust.

Redstone has been at the centre of a months-long court fight. His ex-girlfriend and longtime companion Manuela Herzer, who had been in control of Redstone’s care, issued a court challenge over his decision-making capacity after she was expelled from his house in October. His longtime attorney Philippe Dauman, now Viacom’s CEO, has authority to make medical decisions if Redstone is deemed incapacitated by his physician, but that has not yet happened.


Delta Air Lines CEO Anderson to retire, president takes over

NEW YORK (AP) — Richard Anderson, who oversaw Delta Air Lines’ transformation into one of the world’s most profitable airlines, will retire this May. His right-hand man, airline president Ed Bastian, will take over as CEO, the Atlanta-based airline said Wednesday.

Anderson started as CEO in 2007, just after Delta exited bankruptcy protection. The next year, Delta merged with Northwest Airlines, a deal often cited as a model for future airline mergers, some of which did not go as smoothly.

Northwest would be Anderson’s biggest deal, but not his last. Delta also purchased a 49 per cent ownership stake in Virgin Atlantic to gain much-needed access to London and bought an oil refinery, an unconventional move that gave the carrier more insight into the jet fuel market.


Lowe’s makes another run for Canada’s Rona in $2.3 billion deal

NEW YORK (AP) — Lowe’s is expanding its footprint in Canada with a $2.3 billion acquisition of the home improvement retailer Rona.

It’s Lowe’s second run for the company. Lowe’s made a $1.9 billion bid for Rona in 2012, but that deal never went through.

Chairman and CEO Robert Niblock said in a written statement Wednesday that the acquisition gives Lowe’s exposure in Quebec, a province of more than 8 million people, where Lowe’s currently has no presence.


Home Depot to hire more than 80,000 workers for busy spring

NEW YORK (AP) — Home Depot is on a hiring spree.

The nation’s largest home improvement chain, based in Atlanta, said Wednesday it is hiring more than 80,000 workers nationwide for its busy spring season, the same level as in recent years. The retailer estimates that more than half of the temporary workers stay on for permanent employment.

The part-time and full-time jobs include sales, operations and cashier positions across all departments in stores as well as jobs at its distribution centres.


The Dow Jones industrial average added 183.12 points, or 1.1 per cent, to 16,336.66. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 9.50 points, or 0.5 per cent, to 1,912.53. The Nasdaq composite index fell 12.71 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 4,504.24.

The price of U.S. crude oil jumped $2.40, or 8 per cent, to close at $32.28 a barrel. Brent crude, used to price international oils, rose $2.32, or 7 per cent, to $35.04 a barrel in London.

In other energy commodities, heating oil jumped 6.8 cents to $1.0786 a gallon, wholesale gasoline rose 1.3 cents to $1.014 a gallon, and natural gas rose 1.3 cents to $2.038 per thousand cubic feet.