Health: CVS-Aetna merger approved
Antitrust officials this week gave pharmacy giant CVS the green light to buy the health insurer Aetna in a $69 billion merger that could transform the health-care industry, said Brian Fung in The Washington Post. The merger could turn CVS’s 9,800 retail outlets and 1,100 MinuteClinics into “front-line clinics”for Aetna’s 22 million customers “The Aetna acquisition is also expected to give CVS more leverage in its negotiations with drugmakers over drug prices.”
Retail: Is this the end for Sears?
Sears “is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy,” said Nathan Bomey in USA Today. The retailer faces a $134 million debt repayment, due next week, and has so far been unable to work out payment terms with hedge fund manager Eddie Lampert—Sears’ CEO, biggest shareholder, and biggest creditor. “With heavy losses mounting, it may not have enough to make that payment on time.” A bankruptcy filing might give the company—which owns 506 Sears stores and 360 Kmart locations—the chance to reduce its debt. But other retailers, such as Toys R Us, which filed for Chapter 11 in 2017, ended up liquidating their businesses.
Airlines: Around the world in 18 hours, 45 minutes
Singapore Airlines brought back its New York City–to-Singapore flight this week, restoring the longest commercial route in the world, said Angus Whitley and Kyunghee Park in Bloomberg.com. The airline had cut the 10,400-mile, 18-plus-hour flights five years ago, when $100-a-barrel oil made them unviable. But “the advent of aircraft that guzzle less and carry more fuel” has sparked a new long-haul war among airlines. Qantas introduced a direct Perth-to-London service in March and hopes to offer Sydney-to–New York City.
Vaping: Juul makes friends in Washington
Leading U.S e-cigarette maker Juul Labs is bringing on board D.C. veterans as it tries to “head off a potentially ruinous government crackdown on its products,” said Jennifer Maloney in The Wall Street Journal. The Food and Drug Administration has threatened to ban the flavored liquids that make up most of Juul’s sales and which the FDA says are hooking kids on nicotine. Last week, the agency carried out a surprise inspection of Juul’s headquarters. To fight back, Juul last week recruited Josh Raffel, a former top aide to Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, as its new vice president of communications. The company has also retained three Washington lobbying firms.