Business News in Brief – Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Walmart de Mexico’s profit rises 3.8%

Walmart Inc.’s unit in Mexico and Central America said first-quarter profit rose 3.8% despite challenges including fuel shortages that affected store traffic.

Walmart de Mexico y Centroamerica posted net income of $446 million, or 2.6 cents per share, for the quarter that ended March 31, up from $441 million, or 2.5 cents per share, in the same period a year ago. Revenue rose 4.6% to $8 billion.

The company’s Mexican operations saw 5.8% growth in revenue. Sales at stores open at least a year, considered a key indicator of a retailer’s health, grew 4.7% over last year’s first quarter.

In its Central American division, revenue rose 2%. However, same-store sales fell 1.1%.

Walmex, based in Mexico City, operates 2,446 stores in Mexico, including bodegas, supercenters and Sam’s Clubs, and 813 in Central America.

Guilherme Loureiro, the company’s president and chief executive officer, said in a conference call Thursday that, besides the fuel shortages, Easter week falling in April instead of March also hurt sales. But e-commerce sales grew 49 percent, he said, representing 0.4 percent of total growth.

— Serenah McKay

Tesla chief, SEC settle tweet dispute

A regulatory fight over Elon Musk’s tweeting habit appears to be over — at least for now.

Tesla Inc.’s chief executive officer and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said in a court filing Friday that they are settling a legal dispute over how Musk posts news about his electric-car company, avoiding a decision by a federal judge in New York on whether the billionaire should be held in contempt of court.

The SEC has argued that a Feb. 19 tweet by Musk violated an October settlement that ended an earlier dispute over his proclamations on Twitter. Musk said he hadn’t violated the agreement. Had Musk been found in contempt, the judge had the authority to impose hefty fines and new controls on how he communicates with the public.

At an April 4 hearing, U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan urged both sides to “put on your reasonableness pants” and gave them two weeks to work something out. She extended the deadline to Friday. Meanwhile, Musk continued to tweet.

By reaching a compromise, Musk would avoid more penalties while the SEC would affirm the Tesla CEO’s obligation not to release misleading information on social media.

Musk and the SEC have been fighting since the CEO tweeted Aug. 7 that he had “funding secured” to take Tesla private, sending the shares surging. After an investigation, the regulator sued, saying Musk had misled investors. Musk and Tesla ended that dispute by agreeing to each pay $20 million, without admitting wrongdoing.

Bloomberg News

Oklahoma driverless-car bill advances

OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma would establish rules regulating how to safely operate driverless vehicles navigating state highways under a bill passed by the Legislature that has been sent to the governor’s office.

Autonomous vehicles are expected to bring in billions of dollars annually in future decades, according to a report by America’s Energy Security Leadership Council.

Rep. Ryan Martinez, the bill’s sponsor, said the Oklahoma Driving Automation System Uniformity Act could help position the state to become a national leader in testing and embracing the developing technology, The Journal Record reported.

An informal group was formed last year comprising lawmakers, transportation and public safety officials, local government leaders and industry professionals such as Uber and Tesla, Martinez added. The group concluded that Oklahoma’s central location in the U.S. and its many roadways are ideal for developing and experimenting with automated driving technologies.

Automated driving systems would help Americans save around $800 billion per year in losses economically and to quality of life by preventing accidents that result from drunken, distracted or tired driving, the Energy Security Leadership Council’s report said.

The Associated Press

Sources: U.S. weighs China drug offer

President Donald Trump’s administration is considering a Chinese proposal that would give less protection for U.S. pharmaceutical products than they receive at home, according to people familiar with the matter, a move that could draw opposition from the American drug industry

Under the Chinese offer being discussed as part of wider trade talks, U.S. pharmaceutical companies would get eight years of regulatory data protection in China for the biologics they develop, said two people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions are private.

That compares with the 10 years of protection they would get in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which Congress hasn’t yet approved, and the 12 years they receive in the U.S. The move raises the possibility that, in the middle of a fierce U.S. debate over drug prices, the Trump administration would give China a stronger mechanism to force down prices for some of the world’s most expensive drugs than the U.S. has.

Biologics refer to products made from living systems such as cells or tissues, as opposed to conventional drugs that have been chemically synthesized. Biologics are consistently among the highest-priced drugs that pharmaceutical companies make.

Trump said on Thursday that Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit the White House soon.

Bloomberg News

UPS touts drone deliveries to hospitals

ATLANTA — After launching the use of a drone to deliver medical samples across a hospital campus in Raleigh, N.C., UPS said the technology holds promise for hospitals and other large campuses around the world.

Sandy Springs, Ga.-based UPS has tested the use of drones on a small scale for a few years, but last month began the first revenue-producing drone flights sanctioned by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The shipping giant says it is partnering with aerial delivery developer Matternet to make multiple drone deliveries a day at the WakeMed hospital campus in Raleigh, instead of relying on courier cars.

Since UPS launched its contractual deliveries in Raleigh, the FAA has approved more commercial drone delivery by others. Earlier this week, the FAA awarded its first air carrier certification to a drone delivery company.

The New York Times

Business on 04/27/2019