THE WEEK’S OVERVIEW – CORPORATE

Items of interest that might have been missed in the press of events:

  • The German discount grocery chains Aldi and Lidl have begun to make an impact on U.S. grocery retailers.  The German stores offer simpler stores with fewer products at lower prices.  Lidl currently has 71 stores in operation with about 140 additional building or planned; Aldi has 1,880 stores in operation with about 130 building or planned at this time,  The lower prices of these stores are providing challenges for U.S. grocery chains.
  • The control of health care spending is being dealt with in a number of U.S. companies by agreeing to pay for their workers’ travel costs to out-of-area facilities that offer better rates.  Amazon is the latest to follow that practice, paying travel costs for workers who choose specific facilities for treatment of diagnosed illnesses, such as the  City of Hope in Los Angeles.  Approximately 380,000 of Amazon’s employees and their families are eligible for this benefit.  Proponents of the plan say that companies can negotiate competitive prices and the employees get better care -such as avoiding unnecessary treatment – by shopping around the country.  It’s an idea that makes good sense, as well as one that is highly pleasing to employees.
  • Deere & Company is spending billions of dollars annually to buy its own equipment for a leasing program which the company says lifts sales of new farm tractors and construction machinery but adds financial complexity.  Transaction records (ref WSJ) show that more than a third of the financed purchases of Deere high-horsepower tractors and construction equipment is being leased to farmers and builders.  And Deere is financing 90% of those leases.  Leasing levels currently are about double the rate of those in 2012.  Leases allow Deere to increase sales by delivering machinery to customers who might not be willing to buy outright in the soft market.
  • Boeing’s recent boardroom shakeup has put David Calhoun in charge of the aerospace giant’s response to the 737 MAX crisis.  Many analysts and stockholders see this as a reassuring sign, given Calhoun’s record as a powerful behind-the-scenes figure.
  • Harley-Davidson has halted production of its Harley Electric-Bike production due to a problem discovered with the machines’ charging equipment.

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