Aubrey McClendon, the former chief executive of Chesapeake Energy (NYSE:CHK), was driving at roughly 88 miles per hour before he slammed into a bridge abutment earlier this month and died, Oklahoma City Police Chief Bill Citty said at a press conference. The death of the energy entrepreneur on March 2 shocked the oil and gas industry less than a day after he was indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice on allegations of violating antitrust rules by rigging bids for land.
Metal miners are getting pounded again…Antofagasta (OTCPK:ANFGY) -10.6% in London after the Chilean miner’s full year pretax profit fell 83% to $259M and cancelled its final dividend. Anglo American (OTCPK:AAUKY) is down well over 8% in the wake of news that CEO Mark Cutifani took a cut on his bonus due to a tough year for the company. Meanwhile, BHP Billiton (NYSE:BHP) was downgraded overnight by Macquarie to Underperform from Neutral. BHP -6.6% premarket.
The value of General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt’s total compensation fell about 11.5% last year to $33M, but excluding the change in pension value, his adjusted compensation rose 14% to $23.4M ($3.8M in base salary and $5.4M bonus). “Immelt performed extremely well in 2015 with one of the best performance years in the company’s history,”GE said in a filing. The company also announced that three long-standing directors are leaving this year in a “refreshment” to the board.
Bond manager Bill Gross will be able to pursue his lawsuit against Pimco (OTCQX:AZSEY), which claims that executives plotted to oust him and divide his $200M bonus among themselves. Gross’ breach-of-contract lawsuit was strong enough to proceed “based on allegations concerning his status as the founder, a 40-year history, an alleged track record,” according to California Superior Court Judge Martha Gooding. Pimco is still “confident that it will prevail when the parties present their evidence to the court,” the company’s lead counsel said in a statement.
Avon Products is slashing about 8% of its workforce, or about 2,500 jobs worldwide, as part of its three-year turnaround program. The firm also plans to shift its corporate headquarters “over time” to the U.K., where it already has significant commercial operations, but will continue to be incorporated in New York. As a result of the restructuring, Avon (NYSE:AVP) expects to record charges of about $60M in the first quarter.
Verizon has expanded on last fall’s offer of roaming wireless services in Cuba through a direct connection agreement with state telecom monopoly Etecsa. Verizon (NYSE:VZ) previously had to use third parties to connect the calls, adding to costs and lowering quality. A trade embargo remains in place, but relaxed rules in telecom were allowed by the White House since they benefit ordinary Cubans.
The average price of branded prescription drugs in the U.S. has doubled in the past five years, a finding that threatens to fuel the political backlash against high prices. Express Scripts (NASDAQ:ESRX), the country’s largest pharmacy group, said the average wholesale price of branded medicines (which are protected by patents) rose 16% last year and was up a total of 98% since 2011. High drug costs have become a persistent theme in the current U.S. election campaigns, with both the Democratic and Republican frontrunners, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, pledging to crack down on elevated prices.
Remember GT Advanced Technologies? The sapphire glass maker expects to emerge from Chapter 11 “as soon as possible,” after a court entered an order confirming the debtors’ amended joint plan of reorganization. GT Advanced (OTCPK:GTATQ) filed for bankruptcy in October 2014 after its scratch-resistant sapphire glass was left out of Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone 6 and 6 plus.
Toshiba will reveal its business strategy for next fiscal year on Friday in an announcement expected to include plans to sell its medical equipment unit to Canon (NYSE:CAJ) and boost its finances following a $1.3B accounting scandal. Toshiba (OTCPK:TOSYY) is also in late-stage talks to sell its white goods business to the Midea Group, in a deal that’s expected to fetch tens of billions of yen.
Despite making it very clear on its Microsoft Store FAQ page that it will no longer accept Bitcoin (COIN, OTCQB:BTCS) payments, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) is reversing course, saying that it made a mistake and will continue to accept the digital currency. “We continue to support Bitcoin,” the company said in a statement. “We apologize for inaccurate information that was inadvertently posted to a Microsoft site, which is currently being corrected.”
Outerwall rose 15% in after-hours trading, after the firm said it would begin exploring “strategic and financial alternatives” – a move that could mean either a break up or outright sale. Outerwall (NASDAQ:OUTR), which owns Redbox video rental, is bringing in Morgan Stanley to assist in the process.
Sony is acquiring the other half of Sony/ATV Music Publishing from the estate of pop star Michael Jackson for $750M. The world’s largest music publisher has a huge catalog that holds most of the Beatles’ songs, along with those by the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Queen, and Taylor Swift. In October, Sony (NYSE:SNE) seemed ready to sell off its half of the business – thought to be worth $2B overall at the time – though it would have had to give the Jackson estate a chance to counter any offers.
Amazon is poised to launch its new AWS Database Migration Service today, simplifying the process used to move business databases into Amazon Web Services (NASDAQ:AMZN). Since the beginning of the year, more than 1,000 databases from “many hundreds” of companies have used an early version of its migration service, said AWS vice president Adam Selipsky. “You can clearly see that we’re now getting into the meat of enterprise adoption of the cloud.”
Recovering from Sunday’s loss to win its fourth match in a five-game series, AlphaGo, Google’s Go-playing computer, has once again beaten the world’s top player. “One of the most incredible games ever,” Google DeepMind (GOOG, GOOGL) founder Demis Hassabis tweeted following the match. “To come back from the initial big mistake against Lee Sedol was mind-blowing!” The AI program made history last year by becoming the first machine to beat a human pro player, but 33-year-old Lee was seen as a much more formidable opponent.
Almost 300 institutional investors have filed a €3.3B suit against Volkswagen (OTCPK:VLKAY) for what they see as breaches of its capital markets duty as a result of its emissions scandal. The claims are VW’s biggest legal challenge in Germany after a wave of lawsuits in the U.S. centered on the scandal. Separately, VW’s U.S. unit is being accused by a former employee of deleting documents after it was accused of cheating on emissions tests.
Drivers for ride-hailing app Lyft will no longer face the imperative of owning a car under a newly launched rental program with General Motors (NYSE:GM). Express Drive will allow company employees to rent cars for $99 a week, plus $0.20 a mile, with Lyft (Private:LYFT) and GM paying for maintenance and insurance. The project is set to start in Chicago later this month, and will roll out in Washington, D.C., Boston and Baltimore by midway through the year.
The head of Google’s self-driving car program will urge Congress today to grant national auto safety regulators authority to speed the introduction of autonomous vehicles on American roads. “If every state is left to go its own way without a unified approach, operating self-driving cars across state boundaries would be an unworkable situation and one that will significantly hinder…the eventual deployment of autonomous vehicles,” Google’s (GOOG, GOOGL) Chris Urmson will tell the Senate Commerce Committee, according to a preview of the testimony.