Company News: Apple, Wrigley, Energy Producers, General Motors, Yahoo!
Apple: A record bond sale
In the biggest corporate offering ever, Apple sold $17 billion of bonds to finance its pledge to return $100 billion to shareholders with dividends and buybacks by the end of 2015. While Apple has $145 billion of cash, borrowing the money may help it avoid repatriation taxes on the $102.3 billion it holds overseas. Apple’s shares have fallen 44 percent in seven months, and the company expects smaller gross margins and sales this quarter as it faces increased competition. Apple paid higher interest rates than Microsoft did a week earlier, as the iPhone maker’s slowing growth overshadowed its large cash flow. Apple’s last offering was in 1996.
Wrigley: Chewing gum with a kick
U.S. regulators are reviewing how food with added caffeine affects children. The Food and Drug Administration is acting in response to a Mars Wrigley chewing gum product that has 40 milligrams of caffeine, roughly equivalent to half a cup of coffee. The FDA says it last approved added caffeine in food for cola in the 1950s, and the new uses are “beyond anything FDA envisioned when it made the determination.” Wrigley says the gum is marketed to adults 25 and older and that it will work with the FDA on the inquiry.
Energy producers: An oil estimate doubles
There are an estimated 7.4 billion barrels of oil in the shale formations of North Dakota and Montana, double an estimate for that area made five years ago, U.S. government researchers said. The U.S. Geological Survey said the shale oil in the two states could be the biggest potential oil supply in the nation after Alaska. The estimate increased because government scientists for the first time studied the Three Forks formation, which is deeper than the Bakken shale region already being developed.
General Motors: Cutting Volt costs
General Motors, which loses money on every Chevrolet Volt it sells, wants to cut as much as $10,000 per car from the model’s production cost to make the next generation of the plug-in hybrid more affordable and profitable. GM aims to do this without removing any existing features and plans to introduce a new version in 2015 or 2016. The Volt, which starts at $39,145 before a $7,500 U.S. tax credit and has fallen behind sales targets, is central to GM’s goal of having about 500,000 vehicles powered by electricity on the road by 2017.
Yahoo!: Extending parental leave
Yahoo! Chief Executive Officer Marissa Mayer extended paid-leave benefits for new parents as she tries to make the company a more alluring place to work. New moms who give birth can take up to 16 weeks of paid leave. Parents with a new child through adoption, surrogacy, or foster care can get up to eight weeks paid leave. In February, Yahoo said employees must work from company offices and could no longer telecommute, touching off a debate over the merits of giving employees more flexible working arrangements.