Business briefing

The daily business briefing: December 4, 2017

CVS seals deal to buy Aetna for $69 billion, U.S. stock futures rise after the Senate GOP tax bill passes, and more

1

CVS to buy Aetna for $69 billion

Pharmacy chain CVS Health Corp. will buy health insurer Aetna for $69 billion, the companies announced Sunday. The merger is one of the largest in the health-care industry in the past decade, creating a company with drug stores, health-plan management services, and insurance. CVS will pay $207 a share for Aetna, a 29 percent premium on Aetna's share price on Oct. 25, before news of the negotiations broke. CVS also will assume Aetna's debt, bringing the value of the deal to $78 billion. The companies expect $750 million in synergies, but the main benefit is that the deal will help them develop a new way of delivering care, creating what the companies' CEOs said would be "10,000 new front doors for the health-care system" at CVS stores and clinics. The deal needs regulatory approval.

2

Dow poised to surge following approval of Senate tax bill

U.S. stock futures rose early Monday, pointing to a higher open in the first day of trading since Senate Republicans passed their tax overhaul. Dow futures jumped by 217 points or 0.9 percent. S&P 500 futures gained 0.5 percent and Nasdaq-100 futures rose by 0.4 percent. All three U.S. benchmark indexes had fallen on Friday as the GOP plan faced opposition from conservatives over projections that the bill would sharply increase budget deficits. Last-minute revisions proved sufficient to win over holdouts and pass the bill, although Senate and House Republicans still must settle significant disagreements in their versions of the legislation to send a finished bill to President Trump for his signature by Christmas, as promised.

3

Venezuela to launch cryptocurrency to sidestep 'blockade'

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said Sunday that his populist, socialist government would launch a cryptocurrency called the "petro" to help it contend with a U.S.-led financial "blockade." The digital currency will be backed by Venezuelan oil reserves and other natural resources to keep the financial sanctions from driving its economy further into chaos. "Venezuela will create a cryptocurrency ... the 'petro,' to advance in issues of monetary sovereignty, to make financial transactions, and overcome the financial blockade," the leftist Maduro said in his weekly Sunday televised broadcast. "The 21st century has arrived!" Opposition leaders questioned whether Maduro's beleaguered administration could pull off the launch, and said it would need congressional approval to even try.

4

Bitcoin bounces back to new record

Bitcoin bounced back from big price drops last week to reach a new record high of $11,826.76 on Sunday, before edging back. The digital currency has fueled both warnings of a bubble and increasing acceptance that has strengthened its legitimacy. Last week reports surfaced saying exchange operator Nasdaq could launch Bitcoin future contracts next year, following the lead of rival CME Group. The cryptocurrency's 2017 surge is attracting new investors dreaming of riches. Its recent record has made billionaires of the Winklevoss twins, known for suing Mark Zuckerberg after accusing him of stealing the idea for Facebook. They invested $11 million in Bitcoin four years ago, an investment now worth more than $1 billion.

5

Companies cut back on holiday party alcohol after sexual misconduct scandals

U.S. companies are making an apparent push to tame their holiday parties this year following a series of scandals over sexual harassment and assault in the workplace. Only 49 percent of companies plan to serve alcohol at their events, down from 62 percent last year, according to a survey by Chicago-based consulting company Challenger, Gray & Christmas. "As soon as you introduce alcohol at an off-site activity, peoples' guards are dropped," said Ed Yost, manager of employee relations and development for the Society for Human Resource Management based in Alexandria, Virginia. A survey by Bloomberg Law found that most companies that do offer alcohol ask bartenders or security workers to monitor how much people drink, or limit the number of free drinks people can have.

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