By Derek Hall
Johnson & Johnson
The race to be first with a coronavirus cure is in its last stretch. Johnson & Johnson's experimental Covid-19 vaccine became the fourth to enter final-stage testing in the U.S. Wednesday. The one-dose shot could lead to a government authorized vaccine by early next year if the trial yields positive results, the company said. Moderna Inc. and Pfizer Inc. each began Phase 3 trials for their respective vaccine candidates in July. And AstraZeneca PLC entered final-stage testing in August for a vaccine it licensed from the University of Oxford. Johnson & Johnson shares added 0.2% Wednesday.
Nikola might need a jump-start after another tumultuous week in what has already been a rocky month for the electric-truck maker. The company said Monday its founder and executive chairman, Trevor Milton, would be leaving amid allegations he misled investors. Short seller Hindenburg Research published a report earlier this month that called Nikola an "intricate fraud" and accused Mr. Milton of making exaggerated claims about the company's technology, allegations that Nikola has disputed. U.S. securities regulators and the Justice Department are investigating similar allegations related to public statements the company has made. Nikola shares fell 19% Monday.
A jump in digital sales helped Nike outrun its earlier coronavirus slump. The sportswear company reported flat quarterly revenue Tuesday, a turnaround from the pandemic plunge in its spring quarter. The sneaker giant posted a stronger than expected summer thanks largely to an 82% increase in digital sales that offset declining revenue at traditional stores. Athletic apparel makers have reported an increase in demand for clothing and casual attire as more people work and exercise at home amid the pandemic. Nike shares rose 8.8% Wednesday.
Illumina said Monday that it will buy Grail Inc., a company the gene sequencer founded four years ago. It already owns a large stake in the company and plans to pay $7.1 billion in cash and stock to purchase the rest. The acquisition will be Illumina's biggest and push it further into the clinical applications of its gene sequencers and related products and services. With the purchase, Illumina will own a developer of a blood test that promises early cancer detection, and the deal's success will depend on successfully launching the test and persuading insurers to pay for it. Illumina shares fell 8.6% Monday.
Wells Fargo & Co.
Wells Fargo Chief Executive Charlie Scharf apologized for remarks he made about recruiting Black talent after those comments triggered a backlash. In a June 16 memo he said "the unfortunate reality is that there is a very limited pool of Black talent to recruit from with this specific experience." After that memo surfaced, Mr. Scharf told employees in a Wednesday letter that his comment was misinterpreted but acknowledged it was insensitive and reflected his unconscious bias. Shares of Wells Fargo fell 3.5% Wednesday.
E.W. Scripps Co.
E.W. Scripps investors cheered the arrival of the Oracle of Omaha on Thursday. The broadcasting company agreed to buy ION Media for $2.65 billion with the backing of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc., which plans to make a $600 million preferred-equity investment in Scripps. The purchase of ION will roughly double Scripps's television station footprint and allow the company to reach viewers without hefty leasing payments. Scripps agreed to sell its podcasting unit Stitcher in July and has exited newspapers and radio in recent years, shifting its focus to TV. E.W. Scripps shares gained 7.6% Thursday.
Boeing's board faces accusations of failing to properly oversee management's response to two fatal 737 max crashes and the plane's safety problems. New York and Colorado public pension funds made the accusations in a lawsuit filed earlier this month in a Delaware state court. In a heavily redacted complaint, the Boeing shareholders accused former Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg of misleading what plaintiffs say was a largely passive board. A Boeing spokesman said the company believes the suit lacks merit and will seek to have it dismissed later this year. Boeing shares added 6.8% Friday.