Jan. 30 Business Briefs


McDonald’s says deals, $1 sodas boosted key sales figure

NEW YORK (AP) — Cheap eats, $1 sodas and crispy chicken tenders helped boost a key sales figure at McDonald’s.

The world’s largest hamburger chain said Tuesday that U.S. sales rose 4.5 percent at established locations during the fourth quarter, thanks to its two-for-$5 deal called McPick 2, its new buttermilk crispy tenders and its expanding delivery service.

The Oak Brook, Illinois-based company also reported better-than expected earnings and revenue for the quarter.

The company posted net income of $698.7 million, or 87 cents per share. Earnings, adjusted for non-recurring costs, were $1.71 per share, beating the $1.59 per share analysts expected, according to Zacks Investment Research.

It had revenue of $5.34 billion, above the $5.26 billion analysts expected.

After the results were released, McDonald’s Corp. shares slipped half a percentage to $176.50 in premarket trading Tuesday.

Artificial intelligence scientist launches investment fund

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The artificial intelligence researcher who has said he wants to free humanity from repetitive mental drudgery also wants to save AI entrepreneurs time spent raising funds.

Andrew Ng (unh) says he’s launching a $175 million fund to invest in AI startups, backed by private-equity firms NEA, Sequoia, Greylock Partners and Softbank.

Ng’s the co-founder of online education platform Coursera who’s led AI teams at Google and Baidu. He says his background will help prioritize projects with the most potential, saving founders six months of development time otherwise lost explaining their idea.

He’s also tapping his personal network for leads: The fund, simply called AI Fund, isn’t taking pitches from entrepreneurs.

The fund is also investing an undisclosed sum in Ng’s startup Landing.ai that aims to bring AI to manufacturing.

Poland limits Sunday
shopping to benefit family life

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Polish President Andrzej Duda has signed into law a bill that largely limits trade on Sundays, saying it will benefit family life.

The legislation, worked out by the conservative government and the Solidarity trade union, is expected to draw protests from large Western supermarket chains that are the main target of the law. A large part of their profit is earned on weekends.

As of March 1, shops and markets will be closed on two Sundays per month; in 2019 only one Sunday a month will be open for shopping; and starting in 2020, there will be no Sunday shopping, with a few exceptions.

Duda praised the law on Tuesday as giving children a chance to be with parents and giving shop workers some needed time off.

Nutella frenzy: France
investigates deep discounts

PARIS (AP) — French consumer fraud authorities are investigating a promotional campaign for Nutella that prompted scuffles in several supermarkets — and even a police intervention.

The Finance Ministry’s fraud agency said Tuesday it will examine whether the campaign by the Intermarche supermarket chain violated pricing regulations. An official with the agency would not give further details.

Intermarche drew big crowds at several stores last week after announcing sales of the chocolate and hazelnut spread for just 1.41 euros ($1.74), some 70 percent below the regular price.

Video circulated online of ensuing scuffles in some stores, drawing worldwide attention — and questions from authorities.

Nutella manufacturer Ferrero has distanced itself, saying Intermarche is entirely responsible.

The investigation comes as the government prepares to present a draft law this week aimed at stricter and clearer regulation for big retailers.

Report: US home prices post
6.2 percent increase

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. home prices rose a sharply in November, lifted by a shortage of homes on the market.

Standard & Poor’s said Tuesday that its S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller national home price index increased 6.2 percent in November from a year earlier after climbing 6.1 percent in October.

Seattle saw 12.7 percent price increase, Las Vegas 10.6 percent and San Francisco 9.1 percent. Washington D.C. prices rose just 3.3 percent, lowest among the 20 metropolitan areas measured.

The national housing index has registered annual gains of 5 percent or more for 16 months.

David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, noted that housing construction is running well below historical levels. “Without more supply, home prices may continue to substantially outpace inflation,” he said.

The national index is running 6.1 percent above the peak it reached in July of 2006 — before prices went into a 27.4 percent freefall — a collapse that tipped the American economy into the worst recession experienced since the 1930s.

The national home-price index hit bottom in February 2012 and has bounced back 46.2 percent since then.

The higher prices and shortage of inventory may be denting sales. And a December cold snap may have kept buyers out of the market.

The Commerce Department reported last week that new-home sales skidded 9.3 percent in December. And the National Association of Realtors said sales of existing homes dropped 3.6 percent last month.