Salesforce Reports Big Jump in Profits

Here’s what you need to know: Salesforce, a maker of cloud software, saw surging revenue and profit in the second quarter as customers have increasingly turned to its tools in the coronavirus pandemic. The San Francisco company’s revenue rose to $5.15 billion, up 29 percent from a year ago, driven […]

Salesforce, a maker of cloud software, saw surging revenue and profit in the second quarter as customers have increasingly turned to its tools in the coronavirus pandemic.

The San Francisco company’s revenue rose to $5.15 billion, up 29 percent from a year ago, driven by the demand for its customer-relations software and new tools, which help people return to work. Profit jumped to $2.6 billion, up from $91 million a year ago, helped by a change to its international corporate structure that created tax benefits.

On Monday, the S&P Dow Jones Indices said Salesforce would replace Exxon Mobil on the Dow Jones index at the end of the month.

Credit…Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Nordstrom’s sales took a nosedive for a second quarter, it reported on Tuesday, as department stores and apparel chains continue to struggle with temporary store closures tied to the pandemic and look to the second half of the year to regain their footing.

The retailer said that sales plunged 53 percent to $1.8 billion in the three months ended Aug. 1, posting a net loss of $255 million, as its stores were closed for about half of the quarter, and its popular annual Anniversary Sale was shifted into this month.

Nordstrom’s sales had already fallen 40 percent in the quarter ended May 2, prompting the Seattle-based retailer to cut jobs, close stores and reduce executive pay.

Nordstrom said in a Tuesday release that the most recent results were “in-line” with its expectations. Pete Nordstrom, the company’s president and chief brand officer, said the retailer was “confident that we can improve sales trends in the second half of the year and beyond.”

Digital sales, which include pickups of online orders, accounted for 61 percent of overall sales in Nordstrom’s latest quarter, from 30 percent last year.

Credit…Joseph Rushmore for The New York Times

Thirty states, as of Monday, have signed on to President Trump’s plan to supplement unemployment benefits.

The president’s plan to replace the $600-a-week emergency federal unemployment supplement originally called for unemployed workers to receive $400 each week, with $100 to be supplied by the states.

But most states are struggling to meet other expenses. Ultimately the administration said the states’ basic benefit payments could be counted toward their $100 share. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which normally provides disaster relief, will provide $300 per recipient.

Montana is the only state so far to choose to provide the extra funds needed to bring the supplement to $400, according to FEMA.

Many states are still reviewing the rules issued by the federal government to determine how to carry them out. One state has declined to take part. South Dakota’s governor, Kristi Noem, announced that her state would forgo the federal funds, saying they were not needed because South Dakota had recovered 80 percent of its job losses.

States have until Sept. 10 to apply for the funds.

It could take some states up to six weeks to figure out how to get a program up and running, John P. Pallasch, assistant secretary for employment and training at the Labor Department, said on a conference call with reporters on Thursday.

Credit…Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

American Airlines plans to furlough 19,000 employees this fall when restrictions on job cuts that airlines agreed to in exchange for federal aid end.

When combined with the thousands of employees who have taken buyout packages or agreed to take long-term leave, the airline will have at least 40,000 fewer workers on Oct. 1 than it did before the pandemic took hold, a decline of about 30 percent, the airline’s top two executives said in a letter to employees.

A union-led effort to get lawmakers to pass $25 billion in airline payroll funding for six months, as they did in March with the CARES Act, has gained bipartisan support. But with broader stimulus talks stalled, it’s unclear when and whether the aid will materialize, American’s chief executive, Doug Parker, and president, Robert Isom, said in the letter.

At American, flight attendants and pilots account for about half of the furloughs, with about 8,100 flight attendants and about 1,600 pilots expected to be let go. Another 12,500 American employees have voluntarily left the company since the pandemic began, while 11,000 have agreed to take temporary leaves of absence.

Based on current demand, Mr. Parker and Mr. Isom said American expects less than half as many flights in the final three months of 2020 as a year earlier. American had taken an aggressive approach to restoring flights early in the summer, but pulled back as the recovery stalled in July when virus cases surged across the country.

The news comes a day after Delta Air Lines warned its pilots that it may have to cut as many as 1,941 jobs in October, unless Congress acts. United Airlines said last month that it could cut up to 36,000 jobs this fall.

Credit…Hau Dinh/Associated Press

The Trump administration may levy additional penalties on Vietnam for undervaluing its currency in a trade case over tires, in what would be the first application of a novel trade rule the administration introduced last year.

The rule, which is designed to prevent foreign competitors from trying to unfairly undercut American producers, allows the administration to impose a so-called countervailing duty when other countries “subsidize” their products by weakening their currencies relative to the U.S. dollar. When a country weakens its currency, that makes its exports cheaper to purchase, giving it an advantage on global markets.

In the past, the United States only imposed countervailing duties when foreign products were more directly subsidized, like through special grants or loans. But last May, the administration issued new rules to begin treating an undervalued currency like an illegal subsidy. The same month, the United Steelworkers Union and the AFL-CIO petitioned the Commerce Department to investigate whether Vietnam was providing unfair subsidies to its tire manufacturers by systematically undervaluing its currency in relation to the U.S. dollar.

In a letter to the Commerce Department Monday, the Treasury Department said that Vietnam had undervalued its currency by about 4.7 percent against the U.S. dollar, giving the country an advantage when it exported the tires.

The Commerce Department’s decision on the case is still pending.

  • The S&P 500 ended with a gain of less than half a percent after drifting between gains and losses on Tuesday. European markets gave up their early gains, while Asian markets had closed broadly higher.

  • Oil benchmarks rose as a second of two tropical storms made its way through the Gulf of Mexico, and gold was slightly lower.

  • Gap, which will report earnings on Thursday, was one of the top-performing stocks on Tuesday, with a gain of more than 10 percent.

  • Ant Group, the payment- and finance-focused sister company of the Chinese e-commerce titan Alibaba, filed paperwork on Tuesday to list shares in Hong Kong and Shanghai. It’s the first step toward what is expected to be a blockbuster initial public offering.

  • Top trade officials from the United States and China spoke on Monday, part of a six-month checkup on the status of a trade deal that both countries signed in January. Both countries issued fairly upbeat statements afterward, and investors initially responded to those by bidding up share prices.

  • “The fact that the conversation happened is positive, showing that trade is still moving ahead despite the current tensions between the two countries,” said He Weiwen, a former Ministry of Commerce official who still plays an active role in Chinese advisory councils.

Credit…David Dee Delgado for The New York Times

Hunkered down at home, sick of their own cooking and desperately searching for new forms of entertainment, American consumers are leaning on Best Buy and Papa John’s for some relief.

Both chains, the first an electronics retailer and the latter a pizza chain (of course) reported a big jump in sales on Tuesday. Papa John’s said sales rose 18 percent at U.S. company-owned restaurants between July 27 and August 23, compared with the same time frame last year.

At Best Buy, which on Tuesday reported its results for the three months through Aug. 1, domestic online sales surged 242 percent. Total U.S. same-store sales rose 5 percent in that period.

“Products that help people work, learn, connect and cook at home, like computing, appliances and tablets, were the largest drivers of our sales growth for the quarter,” Corie Barry, chief executive of Best Buy, said in a statement.

Best Buy earned $432 million during the second quarter, compared with $238 million last year.

Credit…Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

The Dow Jones industrial average is getting a makeover at the end of the month: Amgen, Honeywell and Salesforce will be added to the index, replacing Exxon Mobil, Pfizer and Raytheon.

Apple’s stock split is to blame. The 124-year-old stock index is price-weighted, a quirk that means the influence of its 30 components is based on their share prices, not their market values. Apple’s upcoming four-for-one stock split, which significantly lowers its share price, will reduce its weight in the Dow from about 12 percent to 3 percent, despite no change in the tech giant’s $2 trillion market capitalization.

In response, the index committee made changes to weights and membership to “better reflect the American economy,” it said. The three largest Dow components after the reshuffle will be UnitedHealth, Home Depot and Amgen; Apple drops to 17th.

Exxon is the Dow’s longest-serving member: It joined the index in 1928, as Standard Oil of New Jersey. Its replacement by Salesforce is an apt reflection of the times, with data in the cloud gaining prominence over oil in the ground. The companies are now worth roughly the same in market value.

The Dow has recently lagged the S&P 500, which is weighted by market value, as the latter is more representative of today’s tech-dominated stock market. For all the attention that the Dow gets as a proxy for the broader market, assets tracking the index were worth about $31 billion at the end of last year, a small fraction of the $11 trillion tracking the S&P 500.

Credit…Aly Song/Reuters

Ant Group, the payment- and finance-focused sister company of the Chinese e-commerce titan Alibaba, filed paperwork on Tuesday to list shares in Hong Kong and Shanghai, the first steps toward what could be a blockbuster initial public offering.

Online finance has exploded in China in recent years, and Ant’s flagship service, Alipay, has been a key driver. Here’s what the filing revealed:

  • Ant said it generated $17 billion in revenue last year, a jump of more than 40 percent from 2018. More than half of its 2019 revenue came from financial services such as lending, wealth management and insurance that were offered through Alipay.

  • The company said that transactions worth $16 trillion took place on Alipay last year, a one-fifth increase from the year before. It also noted that the platform had enabled $290 billion in credit to individuals and small businesses, as well as $500 billion in investments.

  • Unlike some other fast-growing tech companies that have listed shares in recent years, Ant is not losing money and had a profit last year of around $2.5 billion.

Ant’s choice of Chinese exchanges over American ones is meant to capitalize on the interest of local investors, for whom Alipay is a household name. Alibaba held a giant share sale in New York in 2014 and a second listing in Hong Kong last year.

But it also reflects the uneasy state of affairs for Chinese technology companies in the United States. President Trump has vowed to restrict apps including WeChat and TikTok in the name of safeguarding Americans from data gathering by the Chinese Communist Party.

Credit…Krista Schlueter for The New York Times

The “blank check” acquisition funds known as special purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs, have raised more than $30 billion so far this year, versus $13 billion in all of last year. Can they keep it up? In today’s newsletter, DealBook spoke with some of the most plugged-in SPAC bankers and lawyers on Wall Street, and they cited three factors driving the boom:

1️⃣ Valuations are soaring for popular SPAC targets

“The pipeline is heavily weighted to technology and growth companies,” said Niron Stabinsky, who leads SPAC deals at Credit Suisse.

SPAC offerings will be “incredibly active post Labor Day,” said Paul Tropp, the co-head of Ropes & Gray’s capital markets group. That’s part of a “significant uptick” in listings expected to hit the market before election-related uncertainty sets in: Yesterday, the tech firms Asana, JFrog, Snowflake and Unity all filed to go public.

2️⃣ SPACs aren’t just an alternative to traditional I.P.O.s

“SPACs have become a new way of doing an M.&A. deal,” said Jeff Mortara, the head of equity capital markets origination at UBS. A merger with a SPAC allows the target company’s investors to retain a stake while gaining liquidity, and deal negotiations can be done directly, secretly and quickly. SPACs typically have two years from their I.P.O. date to complete a merger.

3️⃣ The flood of money to SPACs means better terms for targets

“Everything is negotiable,” the venture capitalist Bill Gurley wrote in a detailed case for SPACs on his blog. As competition between SPACs intensifies, “sponsors are continuing to negotiate deals that look better for the companies they buy,” he said.

Why? Some SPAC sponsors are open to a smaller “promote” — the stake the sponsor gets essentially free after a merger. (Traditionally, a sponsor takes 20 percent.) SPACs also award warrants to the vehicle’s investors, which give them the right to buy larger stakes in the merged company at a discount; these are becoming less dilutive as sponsors shift their terms to be more favorable to the target company.

Mr. Gurley predicted that SPAC fund-raising this year could be four times higher than the previous record, set in 2019, implying another $20 billion or so to come. The standard-bearer of a new approach for SPACs is the $4 billion fund sponsored by Bill Ackman’s Pershing Square, the largest to date.

— Lauren Hirsch

  • Vogue U.S. said on Tuesday that it had committed to increasing its Black freelance talent, including writers, photographers, beauty teams and stylists, to a benchmark of at least 15 percent of total hires throughout the year. The announcement was made as part of the 15 Percent Pledge, an initiative formed this summer to urge major retailers to commit 15 percent of their shelf space to Black-owned businesses, winning over brands like Sephora and West Elm. Its mission has expanded to advocating increased representation and financial equality for Black-owned businesses and Black workers outside of retail. Aurora James, the founder of the 15 Percent Pledge, will appear on one of Vogue’s September issue covers.

  • Permanently repealing the payroll tax, which President Trump has repeatedly insisted that he wants to do, would deplete the trust fund used to pay for Social Security by the middle of 2023, according to a review by the fund’s actuary. “Under this hypothetical legislation, benefit obligations could not be met after the depletion of the asset reserves and elimination of payroll taxes,” said Stephen C. Goss, the chief actuary at the Social Security Administration.

Credit…Lena Mucha for The New York Times

Germany’s economy has continued to recover from the effects of the pandemic, but the rebound is starting to slow, data published Tuesday showed.

The Ifo Index of business sentiment, which is considered a reliable economic weather vane, showed that German managers’ assessment of the economy is almost back to where it was in February before the pandemic. In addition, Germany’s official statistics office said the downturn in the second quarter of this year was not quite as bad as previously reported.

With an early lockdown, widespread testing and mask requirements, Germany was more successful than Britain, France, Spain or the United States in reducing infection rates. That allowed the German economy, Europe’s largest, to get going sooner and bounce back faster.

But the number of infections in Germany has been growing lately, and the increase in the Ifo Index was less than analysts expected. The decline in German gross domestic product, 9.7 percent compared to an estimate of minus 10.1 percent in July, was still the country’s worst on record.

While sectors such as retail and manufacturing have come back strongly, restaurants, airlines and hotels are still deep in crisis.

“The path to recovery is still long,” economists at Oxford Economics said in a note.

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Federal lawsuits filed in Pittsburgh against insurance companies that didn’t pay for pandemic-related losses

TribLIVE’s Daily and Weekly email newsletters deliver the news you want and information you need, right to your inbox. Following on the heels of dozens that have already been filed across the country, three potential class-action lawsuits related to covid-19 were filed in federal court in Pittsburgh late this week. […]