Posted on

For EV Startup Faraday Future, the Road Back From the Brink Runs Through a SPAC

Faraday Future has missed key product deadlines, amassed a pile of debt and lost top executives to a rival electric-vehicle startup. Its founder, who remains an executive, resigned as CEO amid his personal bankruptcy and was barred in China from running public companies.

Now under new leadership, seven-year-old Faraday & Future Inc. is poised to complete a public listing on a U.S. stock exchange within weeks that would value it at $3.4 billion, extending a change in fortune for a startup with a difficult past and no car sales.

Faraday is among the latest examples of an electric-vehicle startup without a clear record of success to raise hundreds of millions in capital and go public largely based on a vision of the future of transportation, owing to the booming popularity of an investment structure called special-purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs.

SPACs have allowed these startups to tap the enthusiasm among public-market investors and amateur stock traders for electric vehicles—an ardor that is driven, in part, by the idea that climate change and new regulations to cap carbon emissions will spur demand for such cars long term. Faraday announced in January a deal to raise more than $1 billion when it agreed to merge with a SPAC called Property Solutions Acquisition Corp.

Los Angeles-based Faraday was founded in 2014 by Chinese entrepreneur Jia Yueting, who had risen to prominence with LeEco Holdings, a technology business he founded, before he fell into financial trouble. A Chinese court seized some of his assets in 2017, among several financial penalties China levied against the entrepreneur. The China Securities Regulatory Commission ordered Mr. Jia to return to the country to handle his debt. Mr. Jia, who didn’t return to the country, has said he was acting “in good faith to fund his vision.”

Posted on

Huawei, HSBC Strike Deal in Hong Kong Over Documents in Extradition Fight

HONG KONG—A monthslong legal fight by Huawei Technologies Co. Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou to obtain documents from HSBC Holdings PLC as part of her battle against extradition to the U.S. resulted in a settlement in a Hong Kong courtroom.

At a hearing in Hong Kong’s High Court on Monday, lawyers for Ms. Meng and HSBC confirmed that the two sides had struck a deal over the documents. Ms. Meng believes the papers will help her legal fight in Canada, where she is in hearings to try to prevent her extradition on charges related to alleged sanctions-busting sales to Iran.

Ms. Meng turned to the Hong Kong courts after losing an earlier legal battle in the U.K. to force HSBC to hand over the documents. Ms. Meng filed a legal action in Hong Kong in February, just days after a judge in London’s High Court declined to order HSBC to hand over the documents, saying he didn’t have the jurisdiction to do so.

In Hong Kong on Monday, Judge Linda Chan told the courtroom in a hearing lasting just a few minutes that she approved a deal between the two sides, including on how the documents will be redacted. Few details were disclosed.

While confirming an agreement had been reached, representatives for both Huawei and HSBC didn’t elaborate.

Posted on

Ant Group to Become a Financial Holding Company Overseen by Central Bank

Ant Group Co., the financial-technology giant controlled by billionaire Jack Ma, will apply to become a financial holding company overseen by China’s central bank, overhauling its business to adapt to a new era of tighter regulation for internet companies.

In a statement, the People’s Bank of China said Ant representatives were summoned to a meeting Monday with four regulatory agencies that also included the country’s banking, securities and foreign exchange overseers. It said a “comprehensive, viable rectification plan” for Ant has been formulated under the regulators’ supervision over the past few months.

Write to Jing Yang at Jing.Yang@wsj.com

Posted on

Raw Materials Prices Have Surged. Corporate Profits Are Likely Next.

Prices are surging for raw materials, leading to higher costs for companies from home builders to clothing makers.

If history repeats, that will be a boon to corporate bottom lines and investors as well.

Rising material costs usually foreshadow fatter profit margins, according to Jonathan Golub, chief U.S. equity strategist at Credit Suisse Group.

Higher input costs generally accompany broad economic growth, which allows companies to pass along added expenses through higher prices of their own. Also, fixed expenses, like factory equipment, can be spread over greater sales.

Mr. Golub tracked operating margins among companies included in the S&P 500 stock index and found rises and declines that mirror earlier moves in materials prices, for which he used an index of commodities that includes zinc, rubber, steel scrap and burlap.

Posted on

Vox Media to Buy Owner of Preet Bharara’s Podcast

Vox Media said it is acquiring Cafe Studios Inc., publisher of a popular podcast hosted by former Manhattan U.S. attorney Preet Bharara, part of a bid to expand its growing audio business.

The companies didn’t disclose financial terms of the deal. Mr. Bharara will join Vox Media as a host, co-founder and creative director of Cafe, which will continue to exist as a brand. Mr. Bharara will report to Vox Media Studios President Marty Moe.

Spun off from Some Spider Inc. in 2020, Cafe Studios publishes a handful of podcasts, including “Stay Tuned With Preet,” Mr. Bharara’s current-events and pop-culture talk show; “Third Degree,” a legal-analysis show; and “Doing Justice,” a narrative podcast based on a book by Mr. Bharara of the same name.

In an interview, Vox Media Chief Executive Officer Jim Bankoff said Cafe Studios was worth buying because of its strong advertising business, the quality of its shows and its subscription business. Cafe Studios charges subscribers for access to exclusive podcasts, a business model that Mr. Bankoff said he is interested in exploring.

“Vox Media is a company that is built on talented, creative people who connect and create authority and community with large audiences,” Mr. Bankoff said. “And that’s precisely what Preet and the Cafe team have done.”

Posted on

Working Mothers Derailed by Pandemic Face a Tough Road

Before the Covid pandemic erupted, Brooks McCoy made $103,000 a year as a regional director for a commercial cleaning franchise in North Carolina. After being laid off last March, the mother of two resorted to selling Pampered Chef cookware to friends of friends. In August, after months of looking, she found a full-time job selling copiers and printers to businesses.

The company has given her the childcare flexibility she needs now, letting her work from home when her two daughters don’t have in-person school. But it pays $40,000 a year.

“I made that coming out of college,” says Ms. McCoy, 40 years old. She hasn’t been able to get a better-paying job.

After a brutal year of layoffs, parenting struggles, and juggling jobs and schooling under one roof, many working mothers are trying to regain their career momentum—and hitting new obstacles.

Some are finding it difficult to land jobs with the same level of status and pay they had before. Others, bruised by pandemic childcare disruptions, say they need jobs that offer greater flexibility going forward.

Posted on

Alibaba, Hit by Antitrust Fine, Vows to Help Vendors With Fee Cuts

TAIPEI—Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. said Monday that it would invest in measures to support merchants on its platform, two days after China’s antitrust regulator imposed a record fine against the company founded by Jack Ma for abusing its dominant position over vendors and rivals in the country’s e-commerce industry.

In a conference call, Chief Executive Daniel Zhang said the company has reduced service fees and charges for vendors, and invested in improved technology and tools for them on its platform. The initiatives will cut further into profitability for the company, which said it would use existing liquidity to pay a $2.8 billion fine announced Saturday.

China’s State Administration for Market Regulation said an investigation into Alibaba found that it punished certain merchants who sold goods both on Alibaba and on rival platforms, a practice dubbed “er xuan yi”—literally, “choose one out of two.”

Alibaba shares, which had lost about a quarter of their value since November, jumped as much as 9% in early trading on Monday morning in Hong Kong before easing slightly to stand about 6% higher, in a sign that investors welcomed the clarity over the company’s future after fines were announced.

However, the antitrust investigation outcome raised concerns among analysts about how the company would retain merchants, particularly in an increasingly competitive e-commerce landscape with rivals including JD.com Inc. and Pinduoduo Inc.

Posted on

Covid-19 Drug Prevents Symptomatic Disease in Study, Regeneron Says

An antibody drug from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. reduced the risk of developing symptomatic Covid-19 infection by 81% compared with a placebo in people living with someone infected by the new coronavirus, a study found.

The results point to potential new preventive applications for the drug, which is already in use to treat earlier Covid-19 cases.

Regeneron said Monday it would ask the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to expand the drug’s authorization among people exposed to the virus who haven’t yet been vaccinated, which could provide temporary stopgap protection as people await vaccines.

So far, 21.3% of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated, and 35.3% has received at least one shot.

“With more than 60,000 Americans continuing to be diagnosed with Covid-19 every day, the REGEN-COV antibody cocktail may help provide immediate protection to unvaccinated people who are exposed to the virus,” said George D. Yancopoulos, Regeneron’s president and chief scientific officer.

Posted on

Ten Signs Things Are Getting Back to Normal, From ‘Friends’ to Full Middle Seats

There’s no question: We’re not out of the woods yet. But parts of pre-pandemic life are returning, from Hollywood movie openings to Major League Baseball games.

Accelerating vaccination rates have spurred optimism, as recent data shows 19.4% of the U.S. population is fully inoculated against Covid-19, but new cases of the disease have been rising, too. The seven-day rolling average of hospitalizations as of April 6 rose 3.6%, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The death toll has surpassed 556,000.

Here are 10 signs that life is starting to get back to normal:

Monster turnout for ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ opening

The mashup film had the best domestic box-office debut since the pandemic began, raking in a robust $48.5 million over five days despite capacity limitations at most auditoriums. The film’s performance represented a burst of confidence for cinemas after consumers eschewed theaters in favor of streaming platforms and drive-ins.

Posted on

Why Amazon Workers in Alabama Voted Against Union

Amazon . com Inc. employees in Alabama who sided against unionization said they had broad concerns about job security and grew convinced that their pay and benefits might not markedly increase with the help of a union.

The resounding victory for Amazon, the nation’s second-largest private employer, came after it organized what proved to be a successful local campaign, highlighting the company’s strengths and questioning the union’s benefits. Nationally, Amazon grew vocal in pushing back against criticism about its workplace conditions, including when a top executive engaged in disputes with members of Congress on Twitter.

Analysts say the defeat of unionization will strengthen Amazon after what has already been a year of tremendous growth and success fueled by the pandemic. The tech giant’s revenue last year soared 38% to $386 billion, and its profit nearly doubled, as it added 500,000 people to its global workforce.

Some workers said Amazon helped steer their vote against unionization. Other employees said they didn’t need convincing by Amazon and were against unionizing from the start.

Amazon pointed to its minimum wage of $15 an hour, double the state’s minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, which is also the federal minimum. The company also highlighted its healthcare and retirement benefits.