In Brief – N.43 – February 3, 2017

Women’s apparel chain The Limited began closing all 250 of its stores across the United States and is slashing 4,000 jobs, the latest casualty of shopping’s move online and the growth of fast fashion chains according to analysts.

The British Government is no longer the biggest shareholder in Lloyds Banking Group after selling down its stake to less than 6%. The Government has now recovered more than £18 billion, the lender said, as it continues to reduce its stake from the 43% it held after rescuing Lloyds with a £20.5 billion bailout during the financial crisis.

Yahoo, soon to be renamed Altaba, has revealed its plans if the sale of its main internet properties to Verizon Communications goes ahead, with chief executive Marissa Mayer to step down and leave the board of the investment company that will remain.

Britain will be in the “front seat” to negotiate a new trade deal with the incoming Trump administration, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker said after meeting Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. Yet President Barack Obama warned in April 2016 that the UK would be at the back of the queue for trade deals if voters chose Brexit.

A team of researchers at MIT has designed one of the strongest lightweight materials known, by compressing and fusing flakes of graphene, a two-dimensional form of carbon. The new material, a sponge-like configuration with a density of just 5 percent, can have a strength 10 times that of steel.

US President Barack Obama returned to Chicago to offer his grateful farewell to the American people. “America is not the project of any one person. Because the single most powerful word in our democracy is the word We. We The People,” said Obama.

Classified documents presented to President Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump included allegations that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Trump.

Progress is being made toward sustainability, according to the Click Clean report released by the environmental watchdog group Greenpeace. For 2016, Facebook (FB), Apple (AAPL) and Google (GOOGL) remained the standard bearers, each getting an overall grade of A.

Volkswagen AG agreed to plead guilty and pay 4.3 billion dollars in criminal and civil penalties. Simultaneously, six Volkswagen executives and employees have been indicted in connection with conspiracy to cheat US emissions tests.

ATTOM Data Solutions, curator of the nation’s largest fused property database, released its Year-End 2016 US Foreclosure Market Report, which shows foreclosure filings – default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions – were reported on 933,045 US properties in 2016, down 14 percent from 2015 to the lowest level since 2006.

Back in 2014 Google (now Alphabet) bought Titan Aerospace, a company specializing in solar-powered drones that could fly at high altitudes for long periods of time. Today, Alphabet confirmed that it has ended its exploration of solar-powered drones.

A federal judge temporarily blocked the proposed 37 billion dollars mega-merger between health insurance industry giants Aetna and Humana, ruling that the transaction would reduce competition for consumers.

British Prime Minister Theresa May will be the first foreign leader to meet with US President Donald Trump at the White House, confirming that the Trump administration will prefer bilateral talks than “often useless talks” with “multilateral organizations” like the European Union (EU).

Qualcomm shares are getting chipped badly by a nasty lawsuit from Apple. Shares of the chip-making giant tumbled as much as 14 percent after Apple slapped it with a $1 billion suit, alleging that Qualcomm has been using anticompetitive tactics in deals to supply the iPhone.

Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) have nominated former European Parliament President Martin Schulz as their candidate to run against Angela Merkel to become Chancellor in September 2017, following Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel’s decision to stand aside.

US President Donald Trump named Ajit Pai, a former lawyer for Verizon and a foe of the Obama administration’s “net neutrality” rules, to become chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Pai has been a Republican commissioner for the agency since 2012.

Parliament must vote on whether the government can start the Brexit process, the British Supreme Court has ruled. The judgement means Prime Minister Theresa May cannot begin talks with the European Union (EU) until MPs and peers give their backing – although this is expected to happen in time for the government’s 31 March 2017 deadline.

Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) acquired Actelion (ATLN) for 30 billion dollars with spin-out of new R&D company. The transaction, which was unanimously approved by the Boards of Directors of both companies, will provide JNJ flexibility to accelerate investment in its industry-leading, innovative pipeline to drive additional growth.

RBS (RBS) continues to cooperate with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) in its civil and criminal investigations of RMBS matters, and RBS considered it appropriate to take a further 3.8 billion dollars provision, taking the total aggregate of such provisions to 8.3 billion dollars as at December 31, 2016.

Apple (AAPL) executives met with Indian government officials to discuss a plan to make iPhones in the southern city of Bangalore. APPL said it appreciated the “constructive and open dialogue we’ve had with government about further expanding our local operations.”

MoneyGram (MGI) will merge with Ant Financial. The transaction will connect MoneyGram’s money transfer network of 2.4 billion bank and mobile accounts and 350,000 physical locations with Ant Financial’s users, and will leverage Ant Financial’s global presence and existing network to serve more than 630 million users.

Toshiba Corp. (6502) said it will split off its lucrative flash memory business to make up for losses from its troubled US nuclear business, and is looking for a third-party capital injection.

US President Donald Trump spoke by phones with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman. “The president requested, and the King agreed, to support safe zones in Syria and Yemen, as well as supporting other ideas to help the many refugees who are displaced by the ongoing conflicts,” a White House statement said.

Spain’s economy kept up a steady expansion in the fourth quarter to hit one of the euro zone’s fastest growth rates for 2016, but its consumer-led recovery may slow in the coming months amid rising inflation at home and political tensions abroad. Quarterly growth of 0.7 percent was on a par with the previous three months, the National Statistics Institute (INE) said in a preliminary reading.

Without being aware of President Donald Trump’s new executive order, billionaire Warren Buffett explained why he’s pro-immigration. “Well, immigration, this country is built on it. I always say to people that are anti-immigration, ‘let’s put it in retroactively.’ And everybody leaves,” he said.

A first phone conversation between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Donald Trump was “a significant start to improving the relationship between the (two nations) that is in need of repair,” the White House said in a statement.

Deutsche Bank has reached settlements with the UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS). Deutsche Bank agreed to pay civil monetary penalties of approximately 163 million pounds in relation to certain securities trades that occurred between 2011 and 2015 involving its Moscow, London and New York offices.

Walmart announced free two-day shipping to home and stores on more than two million items, without a membership fee. Walmart has also lowered the minimum purchase required for free shipping to home to 35 dollars, from 50 dollars, in a direct move to compete with Amazon Prime.

Dodd-Frank is a disaster. We’re going to be doing a big number on Dodd-Frank,” President Donald Trump said in a meeting on cutting small-business regulations. The Dodd-Frank Act requires banks to undergo periodic checks to monitor their liquidity and withstand financial shocks like the 2008 collapse of the housing market.

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