Business briefing

The daily business briefing: November 12, 2021

Johnson & Johnson says it plans to split into two, Belarus threatens to block Europe gas supplies, and more

1

J&J announces plan to split drug and consumer units into 2 companies

Johnson & Johnson plans to split into two companies, separating its lucrative but risky prescription-drug and medical-devices businesses from its slower-growing consumer division, which sells Band-Aid bandages, Tylenol medicines, and Johnson's Baby Powder, The Wall Street Journal reported early Friday. J&J plans to spin off the $15-billion-a-year consumer business into a separate publicly-traded company within two years, CEO Alex Gorsky said. He added that the company decided to make the change after considering how much their customers and markets had diverged in recent years, including during the coronavirus pandemic. Rival drugmakers Pfizer and Merck also have decided to spin off their consumer businesses to focus on faster-growing pharmaceuticals.

2

Belarus leader threatens to block Europe gas supplies

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on Thursday threatened to block gas supplies to Europe if Western leaders impose more sanctions against his government over an intensifying migrant crisis. The threat is real: One of Russia's natural gas pipelines that Europe relies on crosses Belarus. The clash started when thousands of migrants, most of them from the Middle East, began gathering recently at Belarus' Polish border. Polish and European Union leaders have accused Lukashenko's government of luring the migrants with promises of passage to Western Europe in an effort to destabilize Poland and neighboring Latvia and Lithuania, and threatened to retaliate with new sanctions.

3

Toshiba announces plan to break into 3 companies

Toshiba Corp. said Friday that it plans to split into three independent companies in response to a call from activist shareholders for radical restructuring. In a move similar to General Electric's recently announced breakup plan, Toshiba said it would spin off its energy and infrastructure divisions into one company, its device and storage businesses into another, and its flash-memory assets into a third. The plan came out of a five-month strategic review conducted in response to a damaging corporate governance scandal. Some shareholders had called for taking Toshiba private, and the Japanese company's Frankfurt-listed shares fell by 4 percent early Friday in a sign of investor disappointment with the breakup plan.

4

Stock futures edge up but remain down for the week

U.S. stock index futures inched up early Friday as Wall Street struggled for footing after a report showing inflation at a 31-year high. Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 were up by 0.1 percent several hours before the opening bell. Futures for the tech-heavy Nasdaq rose by 0.2 percent. The three main U.S. indexes are poised to snap five-week winnings streaks, but they're still close to recent record highs. "Big numbers get big headlines, and yes prices are higher, but you've got also wage increases that are just about to the same amount as inflation is. So inflation is definitely real, but the impact isn't quite as severe as people think," said Randy Frederick, managing director of trading and derivatives for the Schwab Center for Financial Research.

5

Kellogg accuses picketers of blocking cereal plant entrance

The Kellogg Co. has filed a lawsuit asking a judge to order its local union in Omaha to stop striking workers from blocking entrances to its cereal plant. The company said members of the Omaha chapter of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, and Grain Millers International Union are interfering with its business, and union members picketing the plant are intimidating replacement workers as they enter the plant. Workers in Omaha and at Kellogg's three other U.S. cereal plants went on strike Oct. 5 after contract talks collapsed. "We respect the right of employees to lawfully communicate their position in this matter. We sought a temporary restraining order to help ensure the safety of all … including the picketers themselves," company spokesperson Kris Bahner said Thursday.

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