MetLife: Insurance in a box at Wal-Mart
MetLife (MET) is bypassing brokers and going direct to consumers. The insurer has begun selling life policies in boxes adorned with images of Snoopy at Wal-Mart Stores (WMT). Shoppers purchase cards equal to the policy’s cost, then call MetLife to answer health questions and activate coverage. Those who don’t qualify can refund their cards or use them as prepaid Discover debit cards. People aged 60 to 65 pay $429 a year for $25,000 worth of coverage, while those 18 to 44 can get a one-year, $10,000 policy for $69. Direct sales, including via the Net, may climb to 13 percent of the U.S. individual life market in 2016, from 8 percent in 2010, the company said in May.
Consumer lenders: Subtracting the add-ons
JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Bank of America (BAC), American Express (AXP), and others are bowing out of the $2.4 billion market for add-on financial products as regulators crack down on deceptive marketing. The lenders are reacting to Consumer Financial Protection Bureau fines imposed on Capital One Financial (COF) and Discover Financial Services (DFS) over the sale of products that offer to help customers monitor their credit or pay card bills if they lose their jobs. In settlements, the companies admitted no wrongdoing but agreed to stop marketing add-ons.
Deutsche Telekom: Doubling down in the U.S.
Deutsche Telekom (DTE:GR) is buying MetroPCS Communications (PCS) to merge with its T-Mobile USA unit in hopes of creating a bigger rival to market leader Verizon Wireless. Deutsche Telekom will own 74 percent of the new company, and MetroPCS shareholders will get $1.5 billion in cash. The combined entity, which will keep the T-Mobile name, will have sales of $24.8 billion and 42.5 million subscribers, making it the fourth-largest U.S. network. The deal comes after regulators blocked the sale of T-Mobile USA to AT&T (T) last year.
Chipotle: For whom the Taco Bell tolls
Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG) stock fell as much as 8.2 percent on Oct. 2 after hedge fund manager David Einhorn recommended betting against the company during a presentation at the Value Investor Conference. Einhorn said Chipotle was overvalued and faces challenges from Yum! Brands’ (YUM) Taco Bell chain, which introduced a higher-priced Cantina Bell menu in its U.S. stores earlier this year, offering burritos and bowls with black beans, cilantro rice, and pico de gallo. Chipotle says its customers remain loyal.
Cargill: How green is my tanker
Cargill and two other industrial customers of shippers will quit using the most fuel-inefficient vessels to reduce carbon emissions. Cargill, which relies on an armada of about 400 ships to transport 200 million metric tons of minerals, grains, and energy commodities each year, won’t use freighters ranked in the lowest two of seven categories as rated by an independent nonprofit. Unipec U.K. (SNP), a unit of China’s biggest oil trader, and Huntsman (HUN), a manufacturer of chemicals, also will not charter ships with the two lowest classifications.