The daily business briefing: January 10, 2019

Harold Maass
Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos
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Government shutdown forces IPO delays

The government shutdown has forced companies to postpone initial public offerings of stock they had hoped to hold in January, due to the partial closure of the Securities and Exchange Commission, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday, citing sources that included bankers and lawyers. The firms that have held off on listing shares include biotechnology firms Gossamer Bio, Alector, and Blackstone Group LP's Alight Solutions. It now appears that no major company will hold an IPO this month. Since 1995, Dealogic data indicate that there have been IPOs in every January but three, in 2003, 2009, and 2016. Those years have been among the weakest on record for IPOs. This year is supposed to be a strong one. [The Wall Street Journal]


Amazon's Jeff Bezos and wife to divorce

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie, are divorcing after 25 years of marriage following a trial separation, vowing to remain "cherished friends," according to a statement posted Wednesday on Jeff Bezos' Twitter account. "If we had known we would separate after 25 years, we would do it all again," they said. The Bezoses, who have four children, met in New York while they worked at hedge fund D.E. Shaw, and married after dating for six months. Jeff Bezos then quit and started the online bookstore that would become an online retail giant, with Mackenzie Bezos contributing in during Amazon's early days operating from a Seattle garage. Jeff Bezos is now the world's wealthiest person, with a fortune estimated at $137 billion. [The Associated Press]


Stock futures retreat after 4-day winning streak

U.S. stock-index futures fell early Thursday as concerns about trade tensions and the partial federal government shutdown resurfaced after a fourth straight day of gains on Wall Street. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose by 0.4 percent on signs of easing trade disputes between the U.S. and China, and Federal Reserve meeting minutes indicating caution on further interest rate hikes. The Nasdaq Composite gained 0.9 percent. The S&P 500 closed up 0.4 percent, extending its longest winning streak since mid-September. Wednesday's good news was partly offset by a warning by ratings company Fitch that the U.S. could lose its triple-A sovereign credit rating if the partial government shutdown continues and lawmakers battle over the debt limit. [MarketWatch]


Beijing: Both sides 'enthusiastically' committed to easing U.S.-China trade tensions

China's Commerce Ministry said Thursday that the trade talks between China and the U.S. this week were "deep and meticulous," with both sides "enthusiastically" committing to follow through with steps to address each other's concerns. Trade tensions between the world's two largest economies mounted last year, with the U.S. announcing tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods, and Beijing countering with similar measures. In early December, President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to a temporary truce. The U.S. acknowledged Thursday after this week's talks that China had pledged to purchase "a substantial amount of agricultural, energy, manufactured goods, and other products and services from the United States," while noting a list of outstanding concerns. [CNBC, Reuters]


John Lasseter gets new job after leaving Disney over harassment allegations

Former Disney chief creative officer John Lasseter, who was ousted in 2017 over sexual harassment allegations, has been hired to head Skydance Animation, Skydance Media chief executive David Ellison announced Wednesday. Lasseter, the animator who co-founded Pixar, announced in November 2017 that he was taking a six-month sabbatical as the #MeToo movement was sweeping through Hollywood. According to The Hollywood Reporter, he was known within Disney and Pixar for drinking excessively and making employees uncomfortable by grabbing and kissing them. He referenced unwanted hugs in his letter announcing his leave, though one employee told the Reporter, "If it was just unwanted hugs, he wouldn't be stepping down." Disney announced in June that Lasseter would officially exit at the end of 2018. [The Hollywood Reporter, The Washington Post]