Month: February 2024

Truist selling last chunk of insurance business. Now what?

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Truist Financial
Truist’s agreement to offload the rest of its insurance business comes just weeks after it announced a $70 million deal to sell an asset-management subsidiary. Both moves are part of the bank’s strategy to become leaner and more efficient.

Scott McIntyre/Bloomberg

Truist Financial is selling its majority stake in the regional bank’s insurance brokerage unit after a year of speculation about its intentions in what was once a priority business line.

The Charlotte, North Carolina, company said Tuesday that it has agreed to sell the remaining 80% of Truist Insurance Holdings to two private-equity firms and other investors. CEO Bill Rogers said on a call with analysts that the transaction — which values the overall unit at $15.5 billion — and a recent agreement to sell an asset-management subsidiary are part of a strategy to make Truist more efficient and pad its capital.

“You’ve heard me talk a lot recently about the work being done at Truist to simplify our organization and to better control our expenses in our core businesses to drive improved performance in the future.” Rogers said. “By selling [Truist Insurance Holdings], we’ll have capital capacity to play more offense. … In addition, our significantly stronger balance sheet will be positioned to weather an even wider range of economic environments.”

Stone Point Capital in Greenwich, Connecticut — which bought 20% of the insurance unit in February 2023 — and Clayton, Dubilier & Rice in New York led the all-cash purchase of Truist Insurance Holdings. Other investors, including Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund, Mubadala Investment, are participating in the deal, which is slated to close in the second quarter, pending regulatory approval.

The agreement is the latest example of financial institutions’ selling their insurance

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Currys rejects takeover bid from US investment group Elliott | Retail industry

Currys has rejected a takeover bid from the US investment group Elliott, saying the offer significantly undervalued its business.

Elliott, which owns the book chain Waterstones and has a controlling stake in the food chain Wasabi, tabled an unsolicited £700m bid for the electrical goods retailer – at 62p a share, a 32% premium to its latest share price. Currys was valued at £533m at the close of trading on the London stock market on Friday.

A deal would heighten fears that London’s status as a premier listings market is under threat, with the number of listed companies shrinking by more than 12% during the past three years, according to the Quoted Companies Alliance.

A spate of takeovers by US and European private equity firms could continue this year while sterling remains weak. Last year, the Swedish private equity firm EQT bought Yorkshire-based Dechra Pharmaceuticals in a £4.5bn deal, while US-based CVC bought the retailer Ted Baker for £300m.

Currys said in a statement: “The board confirms that it received an unsolicited, preliminary and conditional proposal from Elliott regarding a possible cash offer.

“[We] considered the proposal, together with [our] financial advisers, and concluded that it significantly undervalued the company and its future prospects.”

In 2021, Currys shifted its strategy to merge the four brands it operated – which included PC World, Dixons and Carphone Warehouse – into one master brand.

In November last year, Currys struck a £175m deal to sell its Greek business.

During the pandemic, the retailer closed the 531 Carphone Warehouse stores it owned in the UK, with the loss of 2,900 jobs. ​​

Currys now employs more than 15,000 people in the UK, trading from about 300 stores.

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HCMC revives business investment capital support program

On February 19, the Ho Chi Minh City Finance and Investment State-owned Company (HFIC) and the Ho Chi Minh City Union of Business Association (HUBA) signed a cooperation agreement to provide businesses with preferential interest rate loans.

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HFIC and HUBA sign a cooperation agreement to provide businesses with preferential interest rate loans.

Under the agreement, HUBA will identify and recommend eligible businesses to HFIC for potential lending. HFIC will responsibly assess loan applications from these businesses in accordance with established guidelines. Both parties pledge to actively fulfill the terms of the memorandum, ensuring timely information exchange, experience sharing, and close collaboration in relevant activities.

In his address at the ceremony, Mr. Nguyen Ngoc Hoa, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the HFIC, highlighted that the city’s investment stimulus program had been carried out for 20 years, but it faced interruptions since 2020. Restarting the program and fostering collaboration between HFIC and HUBA will facilitate businesses’ access to and participation in the interest rate support program from the early stages of promotion and advisory. HFIC is committed to guiding businesses within HUBA through the loan application and procedural processes to swiftly execute investment projects.

In its forthcoming development strategy, HFIC is set to prioritize robust investments in Ho Chi Minh City’s pivotal sectors, socio-economic infrastructure investment, such as transportation, energy, and environmental management, key industrial and supporting industry sectors, as well as ventures in logistics. Investments will also be directed towards healthcare, education, science and technology, alongside infrastructural enhancements for residential and urban areas. Furthermore, HFIC will give priority to projects contributing to the realization of smart city initiatives, highly interactive and innovative urban development schemes in the city’s Eastern region, and the municipal digital transformation program.

Mr. Nguyen Quang Thanh, Deputy General Director of HFIC, added that projects meeting

Google debuts Gemini for Business as tech firms seek to monetize AI investments

Google (GOOG, GOOGL) on Wednesday announced a new tier of its AI-capable enterprise productivity suite Gemini for Workspace. The move is another strike at rival Microsoft (MSFT) as the pair continue to battle for customers in the generative AI era.

Google’s new offering, known as Gemini Business, is an add-on for its Workspace suite of products which includes Gmail, Docs, Meet, Sheets, and Slides. At $20 per user per month, the Gemini for Business is $10 cheaper than Google’s existing Gemini Enterprise and Microsoft’s Copilot for Microsoft 365.

Gemini for Business adds Gemini to the Workspaces suite via email drafting assistance, data analysis, document creation, and more. It also includes access to a standalone version of Google’s Gemini via a custom landing page, which uses Google’s Gemini Ultra large language model.

A series of servers powering Google's Gemini AI platform. (Image: Google)

A series of servers powering Google’s Gemini AI platform. (Image: Google) (Google)

Gemini for Enterprise offers all of the same features that come along with Gemini for Business, as well as the ability to translate captions in Google Meet in more than 100 language pairs, and in the future, it will take meeting notes for users.

Neither Gemini for Business nor Gemini for Enterprise has a minimum user requirement, so both small and medium businesses and enterprises can sign up for either service. Google also says no user conversations with Gemini for Business or Gemini for Enterprise will be used for advertising, reviewed by humans, or used to train its algorithms.

In addition to Gemini for Business, Google also announced it’s rolling out its Google One AI Premium plan. The service adds Gemini to the company’s consumer productivity suite and features access to Google’s Gemini Advanced, which runs on the company’s Ultra 1.0 AI model. The company says it’s also working on bringing Gemini for Workspace to education users

A look at Black-owned businesses in the US by sector, state and more

The owner of Marcus Book Store, the oldest Black-owned bookstore in the U.S., talks with her employee about a shop display in Oakland, California, in December 2021. (Amy Osborne/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
The owner of Marcus Book Store, the oldest Black-owned bookstore in the U.S., talks with her employee about a shop display in Oakland, California, in December 2021. (Amy Osborne/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

More than one-in-five Black adults in the United States say owning a business is essential to financial success, according to a September 2023 Pew Research Center survey. While Black-owned businesses have grown significantly in the U.S. in recent years, they still make up a small share of overall firms and revenue, according to our analysis of federal data.

Pew Research Center conducted this analysis to examine the characteristics of Black-owned businesses in the United States. The analysis relies primarily on data from the 2022 Annual Business Survey (ABS), conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Science Foundation’s National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics.

The survey – conducted annually since 2017 – includes all non-farm U.S. firms with paid employees and receipts of $1,000 or more in 2021. Firms are defined as businesses “consisting of one or more domestic establishments under its ownership or control.” Majority business ownership is characterized in the survey as having 51% or more of the stock or equity in the firm. The Census Bureau counts multiracial firm owners under all racial categories they identify with; Hispanic firm owners may be of any race. Read more about the ABS methodology.

A bar chart showing that about 3% of U.S. businesses were Black-or African American-owned in 2021.

In 2021, there were 161,031 U.S. firms with majority Black or African American ownership, up from 124,004 in 2017, according to the latest estimates from the Annual Business Survey (ABS), conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Science Foundation. Black-owned firms’ gross revenue soared by 43% during this timespan, from an estimated $127.9 billion in 2017 to $183.3 billion in 2021.

Despite this growth, majority Black-owned

Trump $354 million fraud verdict includes New York business ban for 3 years. Here’s what to know.

A judge’s ruling on Friday in Donald Trump’s civil fraud trial deals a severe blow to the former president, who is now barred from running the New York-based company that for decades has served as the hub of his global business empire. 

In a 92-page decision, New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron barred Trump from serving as an officer or director of any corporation or other legal entity in the state for three years, while his sons, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., were banned for two years, according to the ruling. 

Trump and The Trump Organization were also ordered to pay penalties of $354 million in what is one of the stiffest corporate sanctions in New York history. The total jumps to $453.5 million when pre-judgment interest is factored in. 

Engoron ruled last fall that Trump and his company, the Trump Organization, “repeatedly” violated state fraud law by systemically misrepresenting the value of some of his properties and his overall net worth. That enabled his business to obtain loan rates and other financial terms that they otherwise wouldn’t have received, New York Attorney General Letitia James had claimed in filing suit against Trump.


Breaking down the Trump New York civil fraud case decision

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More specifically, James’ allegations included falsifying business records, issuing false financial statements and insurance fraud. James’ office claimed that Trump’s misrepresentations led to the company collecting $370 million in “ill-gotten gains.”

Friday’s ruling also appoints Judge Barbara Jones to continue in her role as an independent monitor of Trump’s businesses for at least three years. It orders the addition of an independent director of compliance at the Trump Organization, with Engoron ruling that this person will be responsible for “ensuring good financial and accounting practices.”

“[T]he more evidence there is of defendants’ ongoing propensity

WTCA’s Global Business Forum 2024 to position India as global investment destination

India’s agri and food processing and biotechnology sectors will be among the key focus areas for investors at the World Trade Center’s Association (WTCA) Global Business Forum 2024 to be held in Bengaluru from March 3-6.

WTCA is an international trade organization that connects over 300 World Trade Center locations in nearly 100 countries. The 2024 Global Business Forum (GBF) is making its debut in India, hosted by the WTCA and World Trade Center Bengaluru.

Prashant Gokhale, Managing Director, Buhler India and chair of B2B committee, GBF 2024 said over 100 businesses from 30 countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom will be participating in the four day event that will showcase India as an investment destination.

  • Also read: JCB’s Chairman Lord Bamford backs India as an investment destination

Over 100 Indian companies are expected to participate in the GBF 2024, which will showcase investment opportunities across 12 diverse Indian industry sectors, including agriculture & food processing, automotive, aviation & aerospace, biotech, education, heavy engineering, IT, ITeS & electronics, manufacturing, real estate & construction, tech start-ups, textile & garments, and travel & tourism, said Gokhale, who is also the vice-president of Bangalore Chamber of Industry and Commerce (BCIC).

BCIC is the knowledge partner to conduct B2B meetings and making that connect between the Indian industries and visiting delegates with our network, Gokhale said.

“EPIC: Empowering Progress through Innovation & Collaboration,” is the theme of the event in which several WTC businesses are bringing delegations to participate in the B2B matchmaking aspect.

  • Also read: Gulf nations betting big on India
Deloitte report

Romal Shetty, CEO of Deloitte South Asia, will deliver the keynote address, unveiling the new Deloitte research report “India as an Investment Destination.” Other notable speakers include MR Jaishankar, Executive Chairman, Brigade Enterprises Ltd, and John

Google replaces Duet AI with Gemini for Workspace, brings Business and Enterprise plans

Google Gemini Pro

Google is launching new plans for business customers using Gemini. Earlier this year, Bard was replaced by Gemini and the AI technology arrived on Google Workspace too. With today’s announcement, Gemini for Google Workspace is replacing Duet AI for Google Workspace.

Now, with the Gemini Business plan, alongside other features, users can access a standalone experience where they can chat with Gemini.

The company blog post revealed that 88% of small and medium-sized businesses wish to utilize generative AI to optimize data analysis, customer service, drafting emails, and managing other work-related tasks. The blog explained its Gemini for Workspace facility by stating:

“Today we’re launching Gemini Business, a lower price offering to help organizations big and small get started with generative AI in Workspace. This plan gives them access to Gemini for Workspace — including experiences like Help me write in Docs and Gmail, Enhanced Smart Fill in Sheets, and image generation in Slides — for as low as $20 per user per month with an annual commitment.”

Another option individuals can get is the Gemini Enterprise plan. This replaces Duet AI for Workspace Enterprise and offers the same services as Gemini Business alongside several additional ones. The technology is priced at $30 every month for every customer who signs up for the annual subscription. Duet AI customers will be upgraded to the Gemini Enterprise plans automatically.

Gemini Enterprise comes with language translation for closed captions in AI-powered meetings. This means that Gemini can translate content in over 100 language pairs. Soon, it will also take meeting notes for the attendees.

Gemini for Workspace

Apart from this, Google is letting corporate customers chat with Gemini. The standalone experience utilizes the 1.0 Ultra technology and is beginning to roll out for the Gemini Business and Enterprise plans.

According to the company, the 1.0

Bimbo to restructure its N. American business

MEXICO CITY — In the wake of announcing the closing of a baking plant in New Mexico, Grupo Bimbo SAB de CV said it is planning a restructuring of its North American businesses.

Brief comments about the restructuring were shared Feb. 19 in a call with investment analysts in connection with the release of Bimbo’s financial results for the fourth quarter of 2023. During the call, the company also issued initial guidance for 2024, projecting a generally positive but uneven year ahead.

Operating income of the North America business of Grupo Bimbo in 2023 was 11.18 billion pesos ($660 million), down 66% from 33.26 billion pesos in 2022. The segment’s operating margin fell to 5.8% from 16.2% the year before. Net sales were 192.53 billion pesos ($11.3 billion), down 6% from 205.67 billion pesos in 2022 but up 7% excluding the effects of foreign currency swings.

Skewing the comparisons were the effects of a non-cash benefit of 14.4 billion pesos in the fourth quarter of 2022 in connection with a multi-employer pension plan liability reversal. The 2022 benefit similarly also skewed full-year comparisons for BBU and Grupo Bimbo’s financial results.

In the fourth quarter, BBU’s operating income fell to 1.98 billion pesos ($120 million), down from 19.34 billion in the fourth quarter last year. The company’s operating margin fell to 4% from 33%. Net sales were 49.5 billion pesos ($2.9 billion), down 15% from 57.97 billion pesos in the fourth quarter last year and down 4.2% excluding the effects of currency swings.

Excluding the effects of the MEPPs, margins in North America tightened by 130 basis points. While most of the narrowing was attributed to the strong Mexican peso raising the cost of product imported from Mexico, Bimbo said cost inflation, mostly related to labor, and restructuring expenses associated with