By Francesca Fontana
Which business-software giant will become the go-to provider in a work-from-home world? Salesforce.com could put pressure on Microsoft Corp., as it is in advanced talks to buy workplace messenger maker Slack Technologies Inc. Having failed to capture Slack itself, Microsoft in 2016 launched its own competing workplace collaboration tool, called Teams. Slack would be the largest acquisition ever for Salesforce; Salesforce's core business is in customer-relationship management software. Salesforce shares lost 5.4% Wednesday.
Optimism that vaccines will help revive the economy in 2021 got another boost. On Monday the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca said their vaccine was found to be as much as 90% effective in preventing infections without serious side effects in a large trial. Unlike shots under development from Pfizer and Moderna, AstraZeneca's vaccine can be stored at temperatures above zero degrees Celsius, easing the distribution process. U.S. stocks climbed Monday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average rising 1.1%. American depositary shares of AstraZeneca shares fell 1.1%, as some investors appeared to be disappointed that its vaccine candidate's effectiveness rates fell short of those reported by Pfizer and Moderna.
Delta Air Lines Inc.
Delta's pilots have struck a deal to save their jobs from the pandemic. They agreed to accept reduced pay in exchange for job security until 2022, the U.S. carrier and the union that represents its pilots said Wednesday, which will prevent more than 1,700 previously planned furloughs. Delta said it has been able to avoid cutting front-line workers in part because some 18,000 employees agreed to take buyout or early retirement offers, and thousands more took unpaid leaves. United Airlines Holdings Inc. and American Airlines Group Inc. have furloughed over 30,000 workers, and United has struck a similar deal to prevent cutting any pilots. Delta shares added 0.1% Wednesday.
Best Buy Co.
Christmas came early at Best Buy. The big-box retailer continued benefiting from online sales and items that support homebound customers during the coronavirus pandemic but warned that those gains will taper off. The retailer booked strong sales in the early weeks of November, helped by orders of the new PlayStation and Xbox consoles, and from early Black Friday deals that began in mid-October. But product shortages remain a challenge for the company in the face of high demand, particularly in categories such as large appliances and computing, executives said. Best Buy shares fell 7% Tuesday.
A pending sale of Simon & Schuster would create a new door stopper for the book industry. Media giant ViacomCBS's decision to sell the publisher for almost $2.18 billion to Penguin Random House owner Bertelsmann SE would create a publishing goliath accounting for about a third of all books sold in the U.S., and could trigger attention from antitrust authorities. ViacomCBS put Simon & Schuster up for sale in March, saying it would use the cash proceeds to further invest in its streaming-video efforts, and is looking to sell "Black Rock," CBS's historic Midtown Manhattan headquarters. ViacomCBS shares rose 0.9% Wednesday after the deal was announced.
Gap is betting that stuck-at-home shoppers are ready to spend big on clothes. The apparel retailer's sales in the recent quarter rebounded from spring shutdowns, but increased marketing weighed on profits. The company, whose brands include Old Navy and Banana Republic, warned that the recent increase in Covid-19 cases could hurt store traffic during the critical holiday shopping period. But Chief Executive Sonia Syngal on Tuesday told analysts she was optimistic that housebound customers who can no longer splurge on travel or events may shift their spending to apparel and other products. Gap shares lost 20% Wednesday.
Exxon Mobil Corp.
Oil expectations are sliding inside Exxon. Internal documents show the company has lowered its outlook for crude prices for each of the next seven years by 11% to 17%, according to the documents. This is due to the fallout from the pandemic-fueled drop in demand, as well as increased competition from renewable-energy sources and the prospect of increased global climate-change regulation. Exxon is struggling to cover its dividend, $15 billion a year, at current oil prices, taking on debt this year to do so. So far it has maintained the payout, unlike rivals including Royal Dutch Shell PLC and BP PLC, which have cut their dividends amid this year's cash crunch. Exxon shares fell 2.8% Wednesday.
Write to Francesca Fontana at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires