Retail apocalypse goes on as Macy's says it'll shut 125 stores; Disney's answer to Netflix is gaining subscribers

Disney Plus streamer hits nearly 29M subscribers in 3 months

The Walt Disney Co.'s profit fell 23 percent as it absorbed losses from its new streaming service. File/AP

Macy's to close 125 stores, shed 2,000 jobs

NEW YORK — Macy's says it is closing 125 of its least productive stores and cutting 2,000 corporate jobs as the struggling department store tries to reinvent itself in the age of online shopping.

The store closures represent about one fifth of Macy's current total. The stores, which include about 30 that were announde previously and are in the process of closing, account for $1.4 billion in annual sales. Macy's didn't specify how many jobs would be lost at the shuttered stores and it did not specify the locations.

The corporate jobs will be shed as Macy's closes its offices in Cincinnati and San Francisco, leaving New York as its sole corporate headquarters. Macy's is also testing a new store format that's located at a strip center, instead of a mall.

The moves announced Tuesday come ahead of Macy's annual investor meeting where CEO Jeff Gennette is expected to unveil a three-year reinvention plan.

In South Carolina, the retailer has two mall-based department stores in Greenville and Columbia.

Disney Plus climbs to 29M subscribers

NEW YORK — Disney said its Disney Plus streaming service reached nearly 29 million paid subscribers in less than three months, an impressive start for what the company has positioned as its future as more people drop cable subscriptions.

But the Walt Disney Co. said profit fell 23 percent in its latest quarter to $2.13 billion as it absorbed expenses from starting up the new service. Revenue rose 36 percent to $20.9 billion, beating expectations.

Disney Plus launched in November to compete with online video services like Netflix. Disney had 26.5 million Disney Plus subscribers as of Dec. 28, the end of its fiscal first quarter. That grew to 28.6 million as of Monday.

Original series on Disney Plus include the "Star Wars" series "The Mandalorian." One of the hit characters from the show is one resembling a baby version of Yoda. Disney CEO Bob Iger told analysts that "Baby Yoda" consumer products will go on sale in the coming months. He said the "sensational response" to the character said a lot about Disney Plus.

Disney also has 30.4 million Hulu customers and 6.6 million ESPN Plus subscribers as of Dec. 28; it notched big gains for those from a year ago. Disney offers a bundle of the three streaming services.

Report: NYSE owner eyes eBay

NEW YORK — The owner of the New York Stock Exchange has made an offer to buy online marketplace eBay Inc., the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

The Journal said International Exchange Inc. is valuing eBay at more than $30 billion, compared to eBay's value of around $28 billion before the report. The newspaper cited people familiar with the matter who were not identified.

Atlanta-based Intercontinental Exchange, better known as ICE, declined to comment on the report. EBay did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Activist shareholders have been pushing eBay to make some significant strategic changes, including selling off its ownership of online ticket resale site StubHub.

Ford hurt by slower sales, pension costs

DETROIT — Ford Motor Co.'s profit last year plunged by more than $3.6 billion, weighed down by slowing U.S. sales, the cost of a botched SUV launch and some big pension expenses.

The automaker said it made $47 million in 2019, down from a $3.68 billion profit a year earlier. For the fourth quarter the company lost $1.7 billion, or 42 cents per share, weighed down by $2.2 billion in one-time pension costs.

Excluding one-time items, Ford made 12 cents per share for the quarter, falling short of Wall Street's expectations. Analysts polled by FactSet predicted 17 cents per share. Quarterly revenue fell 5 percent to $39.7 billion, about even with Wall Street estimates.

Tariffs hurt La.'s biggest ports

NEW ORLEANS — The impact of trade wars negatively affected Louisiana's biggest ports last year, according to reports from their governing bodies.

The recently released reports say bulk cargo volumes dropped by 25 percent at the Port of New Orleans in 2019, and the much larger Port of South Louisiana just upriver saw a decrease of 15 percent, The New Orleans Advocate/The Times-Picayune reported.

"It was a tough year," Port of South Louisiana executive director Paul Aucoin said.

Corn and other agricultural products pass through the two ports on their way to foreign markets, and the state's oil and petrochemical sector also relies heavily on them. Economic impact reports show the ports bring in hundreds of millions of dollars in state taxes and that 50,000 jobs in the six parishes where they operate are directly or indirectly tied to them.

A fall in steel shipments and other tariff-affected business hurt the the Port of New Orleans' overall results despite an increase in cruise traffic and a 10 percent rise in container shipping. Tariffs were even more troublesome for the Port of South Louisiana.

Ralph Lauren roared in latest quarter

NEW YORK — Profits at Ralph Lauren soared in its fiscal third quarter and the high-end retailer topped almost all expectations on Wall Street by any metric.

Profit jumped from $120 million in the same period last year, to $334.1 million, with more customers buying goods at full price, rather than waiting for promotions, the company said.

The company reported per-share earnings of $4.41, or $2.86, when removing non-recurring events. That far exceeds the $2.45 that industry analysts were looking for, according to a survey by Zacks Investment Research. Revenue of $1.75 billion was also better than expected.

TVA plant halts last coal-fired unit

DRAKESBORO, Ky. — The Tennessee Valley Authority has shut down its last coal-fired unit at a western Kentucky power plant.

Paradise Fossil Plant's Unit 3 began operating in 1970 with a generating capacity of 1,080 megawatts. On Monday, the unit was separated from the power grid after 50 years of operation. It was the last unit burning coal at the massive power plant. TVA has built a combined-cycle plant that burns natural gas at the Paradise site.

TVA's Board of Directors voted in 2019 to retire the unit. The other two coal-fired units at Paradise were retired in 2017.

More bids emerge for Hermitage assets

BRATTLEBORO, Vt. — More potential buyers have surfaced for the properties formerly owned by the Hermitage Club in Vermont, according to court documents.

The bankruptcy trustee for the former private ski resort at Haystack Mountain in Wilmington filed documents last week regarding interest from two more parties, the Brattleboro Reformer reported Monday. Bruce Waller offered $8.4 million cash for all the Hermitage properties "as is." Someone from Jacksonville, Florida, also expressed interest, but provided no figure or proposal.

Two other bids were detailed in a filing last Tuesday. A company tied to AW Realty LLC said it submitted a letter of intent to buy the resort, golf course, three inns and a six-person bubble chairlift for $8 million. A group led by former Hermitage members said it plans to offer $8.25 million for the assets.

Two other bids were made last month for some of the assets. Rainmaker Mountain LLC, connected to a company based in California and Hawaii, offered $4 million for the resort, golf course and inns. And Boyne USA Inc., which owns and operates 10 ski resorts around the country, offered $3.6 million for chairlift.

The trustee has suggested Feb. 25 as an auction date.

Ailing Etihad sells 38 jets for $1B

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates  — Abu Dhabi's long-troubled Etihad Airways said Tuesday it would sell 38 aircraft to an investment firm and a leasing company in a deal valued at $1 billion, the latest cost-cutting measure by the United Arab Emirates' national carrier.

Etihad said it would sell 38 aircraft — 22 Airbus A330s and 16 Boeing 777-300ERs — in the deal with investment firm KKR and leasing firm Altavair AirFinance. KKR said the Boeing 777-300ERs will "be leased back to Etihad upon purchase in early 2020," while the Airbus A330s will go to international clients.

Etihad described the move as being in line with "the third year of its transformation program."

Etihad's website lists itself as having a fleet of 102 aircraft. It no longer lists its A330s among its fleet, having said it would begin phasing those aircraft out. The 16 Boeing 777s it will sell and lease back represent 15 percent of its current fleet.

Since 2016, Etihad has lost a total of $4.75 billion as its strategy of aggressively buying stakes in airlines from Europe to Australia to compete against Emirates and fellow rival Qatar Airways exposed the company to major losses. Etihad lost $1.28 billion in 2018. It has yet to release results for 2019.

Beer giant Carlsberg sees profits rise

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Danish brewer Carlsberg says its 2019 net profit rose nearly 24 percent to the U.S. equivalent of $977 million on strong beer sales in major markets, but noted it had lost market share in Russian due to tough competition.

The company said Tuesday its revenue increased 5.4 percent $9.76 billion.

The brewer said it "delivered well" despite "experiencing a continued difficult competitive environment in Russia." The Russian market saw low-single-digit growth and Carlsberg said it had lost market share, adding the total volumes were down by 8%.

"At the same time, we are facing a more volatile business environment including the current coronavirus outbreak in China, of which the full impact is not yet known," the group said, adding its Chinese business continued to deliver strong performance.

Wire reports

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