Paw Print Rewind #015: May 26, 2015

Editor’s Note: This is the Paw Print Rewind, a daily recap of the top news headlines.

Icahn invests $100 million in Lyft

Lyft

Carl Icahn’s Ichan Enterprises has made a $100 million investment in ride-sharing company Lyft.

Jonathan Christodoro, one of Icahn’s managing directors, will join Lyft’s board, according to the San Francisco-based company.

The company raised $530 million in a funding round led by Japanese online retailer Rakuten in March. This financing is an extension of the March round, according to the company.

Berkshire boosts holdings in several of Buffet’s favorite companies

berkshire hathaway

Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway has boosted its holdings in some of the billionaire’s favorite companies, including Wells Fargo and IBM.

The changes were disclosed in a regulatory filing detailing Berkshire’s U.S.-listed stock portfolio as of March 31.

The company also boosted its share stake in U.S. Bancorp, another large holding, while other portfolio managers adjusted their stakes in several companies.

No new stocks were added to the portfolio, which shrank to $107.1 billion from $109.4 billion in December. Overall, Berkshire bought $1.62 billion and sold $1.11 billion in equities.

“Too many fund managers are more interested in seeing stocks to which they have committed perform well [in the short term]. Berkshire has such a long time horizon that it can afford to watch the stock price go down so it can buy more.”

-Andy Kern, University of Missouri professor

In the first quarter, Berkshire raised its stake in Wells Fargo by about two percent to 470.3 million shares, and by roughly three percent in IBM to 79.6 million shares. The U.S. Bancorp stake grew about five percent to 83.8 million shares.

Other holdings that grew include Deere, Liberty Global, Phillips 66, Precision Castparts and 21st Century Fox.

Holdings declined in Bank of New York Mellon, Charter Communications, National Oilwell Varco, Viacom, and Wabco Holdings.

Berkshire also owns over 80 businesses, including the Burlington Northern railroad, Dairy Queen, and Geico.

Walmart presses case for store repairs in labor dispute

The Walmart logo is pictured in Los Angeles

Weeks after Walmart was accused of shuttering a California store to stop workers from organizing, according to the company, they will seek permits to rip up floors and replace plumbing lines as part of significant repairs at five stores that justified their abrupt closure.

Walmart’s move last month to temporarily close the stores triggered a union-backed complaint to the National Labor Relations Board that is still pending. The stores should reopen within six months, according to the company.

In the complaint, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union accused Walmart of using plumbing problems as an excuse to close a store in Pico Rivera, CA, in retaliation against workers who have been active in attempts to organize for better pay and benefits. The other four stores were included as cover, according to the union.

Walmart, which denied the claim, will be requesting permits for the extensive work that’s needed at the stores, according to the company, which includes locations in Florida, Texas, and Oklahoma. The construction will include installing new sanitary plumbing lines, replacing ripped-up floor slabs and new refrigeration equipment. It also plans upgrades like new meat and dairy section layouts, in line with company-wide store update efforts.

The company decided to pay severance to the part-time workers among the 2,200 employees affected by the closings, according to Walmart. Normally, only full time workers are eligible.

“Given the unique circumstances of the temporary closures, we continue to focus on our associates and have added benefits and made a series of policy exceptions.”

-Lorenzo Lopez, Walmart spokesman

More than half of the workers who applied for transfers to other stores received them, according to Lopez.

The UFCW, which is seeking injunctive relief to have employees reinstated or transferred without loss of pay, accused Walmart of not granting transfers to workers who have been outspoken in pressing for better conditions.

“Walmart is grasping at straws to cover up the retaliatory nature of the store closures.”

-Marc Goumbri, UFCW spokesman

All workers would continue to receive pay and benefits through June 19, according to Lopez, and transfer opportunities are still becoming available.

Each of the five locations had over 100 plumbing problems over the last two years, according to Walmart, the most among its over 5,000 U.S. stores.

Inmarsat sees hit to outlook on Xpress launch delay

British satellite company Inmarsat has delayed the launch of its third Global Xpress satellite following a failure by its launch rocket partner at the weekend, forcing its outlook to be trimmed.

The failure of the Proton Breeze M launch in Kazakhstan, when a rocket carrying a Mexican satellite malfunctioned and burnt over Siberia minutes after its launch, means that Inmarsat can no longer give a date for its third satellite launch.

The company’s launch partner, ILS, was also involved in the failed rocket launch and Inmarsat’s third Xpress satellite was at the Kazakhstan site preparing for its launch.

With an investigation now required to establish the cause of the failure, according to the company, Inmarsat expects the delay to result in a small negative impact on its 2015 revenue and earnings.

They suspended its guidance of an eight to 12 percent compound annual growth rate in wholesale mobile satellite services revenue over 2014-16 but its broader guidance of $500 million of additional revenue from GX within five years remained in place.

“This incident involving a failed Proton launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrone is extremely unfortunate and will inevitably delay our launch plans for our third Global Xpress satellite.”

-Rupert Pearce, Inmarsat CEO

Islamic State faces battle in Iraq

The Islamic State poured more fighters into Ramadi as security forces and Shi’ite paramilitaries prepared to try to retake the Iraqi city, while Washington scrambled Monday to reassure Baghdad after Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s sharp criticism of Iraqi forces.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden spoke to Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi after Carter questioned Iraqi troops’ will to fight when Ramadi fell. The U.S. damage-control effort came as the loss of Ramadi and Palmyra, Syria put its strategy against the Islamic State into question.

“The vice president recognized the enormous sacrifice and bravery of Iraqi forces over the last eighteen months in Ramadi and elsewhere.”

-The White House, in a statement about Biden’s call with Abadi

The insurgents reinforced Ramadi Monday, deploying fighters in preparation for battle against security forces and paramilitary groups advancing on the provincial capital 70 miles northwest of the capital, Baghdad.

Iraqi forces have regained ground east of Ramadi since launching a counter-offensive on Saturday, a week after being overrun, and on Monday retook a rural area south of the city.

In Palmyra, the Syrian air force struck buildings captured by the Sunni militant group.

The air force leveled Islamic State “hideouts” and killed a large number of its members around Palmyra’s military air base, according to Syrian state media.

Islamic State has killed at least 217 people execution-style, including children, since it moved into the Palmyra area 10 days ago, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

AdultFriendFinder.com reports data security breach of member information

AdultFriendFinder.com, an online dating site for adults seeking sexual trysts has been hacked, potentially compromising the personal information of some of its 64 million members, according to the company.

The site, part of Sunnyvale, CA’s FriendFinder Networks, has contacted law enforcement, including the FBI, and a private investigative team to review the incident.

“FriendFinder Networks recently became aware of a potential data security incident. The security of our members’ information remains our top priority and, upon learning of this incident, we took immediate action.”

-The company, in a statement

So far, there is no evidence that members’ financial information has been compromised, according to the statement.

The company has taken immediate steps to protect members’ privacy by “temporarily disabling the username search function and masking usernames of any users we believe were affected by the security issue.”

SpaceX capsule splashes in Pacific with space station cargo

A Space Exploration Technologies Dragon cargo capsule made a parachute splashdown into the Pacific Ocean on Thursday to wrap up a five-week stay on the International Space Station.

The capsule blasted off April 14 aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and arrived at the orbiting outpost three days later with over 4,300 pounds of food, supplies and science experiments for the live-aboard crew.

It was repacked with 3,100 pounds of science samples and other equipment and released back into orbit at 7:04AM ET on Thursday for a return trip to Earth, according to a NASA broadcast.

Riding beneath a trio of parachutes, the capsule landed in the Pacific at 12:42PM ET about 155 miles southwest of Long Beach, CA, according to NASA.

The returning cargo includes roundworms that are part of a medical study to assess physiological changes that impact aging. A second investigation is looking into how the microgravity environment changes the worms’ muscle fibers, information that may provide insight into mitigating astronauts’ loss of muscle mass during long-duration flights.

Malaysia Airlines getting complete revamp: new CEO

Malaysia_Airlines_B777-200ER

Loss-making Malaysia Airlines will undergo a complete overhaul, as it is restructured into a new company, with a rebranding that will be launched next week and changes planned to his fleet and network strategies.

The new company will be like a “start-up,” according to new CEO Christoph Mueller.

“I’m hired to run the new company entirely on commercial terms an there’s very little margin for error.

“It’s not a continuation of the new company in a new disguise, everything is new.”

-Christoph Mueller, Malaysia Airlines CEO

The chairman of audit firm PrincewaterhouseCoopers Malaysia has been appointed to oversee the move of Malaysia Airlines’ assets and liabilities to a new company, according to Malaysian state investor Khazanah, called Malaysia Airlines Bhd starting by September.

China invites private investors to help build $318 billion of projects

China’s National Development and Reform Commission released a list of 1,043 proposed projects totaling $317.75 billion that it is inviting private investors to help fund, build and operate.

The projects, according to the National Development and Reform Commission, in sectors such as transport, water conservancy and public services, will be done as public-private partnerships (PPP).

The list includes projects planned for 29 areas including the capital Beijing and southeastern Jiangxi province.

“The publication of this library of PPP projects is to help speed up the adoption of the PPP model, and to encourage and guide social capital into the provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities.”

-The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC)

Among items on the lists, which include contact details, are an $8.36 billion project to build two subway lines in the eastern city of Hangzhou, and a $1.03 billion hospital in Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital.

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