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‘Dark Waters’ movie poses risk for 3M, analyst says

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The new movie “Dark Waters” may be about an attorney’s battle against chemical company DuPont, but the film could shine a sharper spotlight on the industry in general, hurting companies like 3M, Bank of America Merrill Lynch said on Wednesday.

The film, which hits theaters on Friday and stars Mark Ruffalo, Anne Hathaway and Tim Robbins, is based on the true story of a Cincinatti-based corporate defense attorney who winds up representing West Virginia farmers who believe their cattle and crops were poisoned by toxic waste dumped by DuPont in local landfills.

The movie chronicles the 15-year battle that ensued — uncovering more than just cattle deaths along the way — which ultimately led to a class-action lawsuit and DuPont paying roughly $670 million to settle about 3,550 personal injury claims. The company, as well as Chemours which was also implicated, denied any wrongdoing.

A scene from the film Dark Waters starring Mark Ruffalo.

Source: Focus Features

The chemicals in focus are PFAS, or per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, which are a group of synthetic chemicals that have been used in the United States since 1940. They’re now found in everything from clothing to drinking water to cooking wear to human bloodstreams, and they are known as “forever chemicals” since they don’t biodegrade. This means that if they enter a water source, for example, the water will remain contaminated for decades after the initial interaction.

A growing body of research has highlighted the potentially serious health consequences from frequent and concentrated interaction, such as from drinking contaminated water.

“Dark Waters” was produced by Participant Media, which was also behind public-discourse sparking movies like “An Inconvenient Truth,” “Food, Inc.” and “Spotlight.” And Bank of America said it could “raise public awareness of PFAS and increase pressure for legislative action.”

3M is a mining and manufacturing company that deals in chemicals including PFAS compounds, so regulatory actions could hurt the company. So far this year 42 bills have been introduced that focus on PFAS, Bank of America said.

Focusing on the “PFAS Action Act,” which would designate all PFAS compounds as “hazardous substances” and would therefore enforce strict cleanup of toxic waste sites, Bank of America said that 3M’s strict cleanup liability could reach $1 billion, with total liability hitting $9 billion pre-tax once $8 billion from personal injury liabilities is added. In the firm’s bear case scenario for the stock the strict cleanup liability could reach as high as $102 billion, although the firm was quick to note that they think this “worst-case scenario is unlikely.”

Under the 1980 Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), known informally as Superfund, companies responsible for toxic waste sites must either perform the cleanup or reimburse the government for the necessary cleanup. So if the “PFAS Action Act” passes, all potentially responsible parties involved in PFAS contamination — which could include 3M — would be forced to foot the bill.

The Environmental Working Group estimates that in the United States there are 1,361 PFAS-contaminated sites.

The Bank of America analysts led by Andrew Obin noted that while they ultimately believe passage of the bill in its current form is “unlikely,” a change in Senate control is a “political risk” for PFAS manufacturers.

Even if 3M is not held responsible under federal legislation, the firm said that “the company will likely face a large number of lawsuits from site owners and end users,” but that it will most likely be “manageable over time.”

The firm has a neutral rating and $175 target on the stock.

3M has addressed concerns over its use of PFAS compounds. “As part of 3M’s philosophy and policy to continually improve its products and minimize their impact on the environment, the materials used by 3M have been tested and assessed to assure their safety for intended uses. In addition to providing this data to regulatory agencies, much of this data is publicly available,” the company says on its website.

CNBC reached out to DuPont for a comment regarding the company’s portrayal in “Dark Waters,” but did not hear back. 3M did not return a call for comment.

– CNBC’s Michael Bloom contributed reporting.



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Stock market news: December 5, 2019

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Stocks ended a choppy session higher Thursday as investors considered mixed commentary around U.S.-China trade prospects.

Here’s where markets settled Thursday at the end of regular trading:

  • S&P 500 (^GSPC): +0.15%, or 4.68 points

  • Dow (^DJI): +0.1%, or 28.01 points

  • Nasdaq (^IXIC): +0.05%, or 4.03 points

  • 10-year Treasury yield (^TNX): +2.1 bps to 1.802%

  • Gold (GC=F): +0.07% to $1,481.20 per ounce

On Thursday, President Donald Trump said trade negotiations with China were “moving along well,” according to Bloomberg. This compounded with positive remarks on Wednesday, when Trump told reporters from a NATO meeting in London that discussions were “going very well” with China, according to Reuters.

Beijing, for its part, corroborated the more upbeat sentiment, with Chinese Ministry of Commerce spokesman Gao Feng saying at a regular weekly briefing Thursday that Chinese negotiators remained in “close contact” with their U.S. counterparts. Gao reiterated, however, that a phase one trade deal should include some reduction in tariffs, according to Bloomberg.

Negotiators have 10 days before additional tariffs on about $156 billion worth of Chinese goods are set to take effect, as previously announced by the Trump administration. Earlier this week, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross suggested the administration would go ahead with these further levies in absence of an agreement with Beijing by Dec. 15.

Separately, oil prices added to Wednesday’s gains as members of OPEC and allied nations (OPEC+) met to discuss their plans for output next year. Members of the cartel, who are set to meet in Vienna, Austria on Thursday and Friday, are expected to agree to deeper production cuts for next year from their current level of reduction of 1.2 million barrels per day, which expires at the end of March. Thursday morning, Bloomberg reported that the Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee of OPEC was recommending a reduction of 500,000 barrels per day.

The oil minister of Iraq had said earlier this week that he and other nations would support a cut to production for next year of around 400,000 barrels a day. Brent crude oil prices, the global benchmark, rose to more than $63 a barrel, while domestic crude was unchanged at $58.43 a barrel from Wednesday at settlement.

Over the past two years, OPEC+ has steadily pared back output in order to offset rising production in non-allied nations like Brazil, Norway, and the U.S., where shale oil output has boomed.

[Click here to read Stock Market Live Updates]

Trader Jonathan Corpina works with children during a traditional bring-your-kids-to-work day on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., November 29, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

EARNINGS: Tiffany sales sink in home market, Slack tops expectations

Slack (WORK), the newly public workplace messaging software company, delivered stronger than expected third-quarter results. However, its outlook for billings – which reflects its software sales to new customers, renewals and added sales from existing customers – disappointed the Street.

The company’s third-quarter loss per share was 2 cents on revenue of $168.7 million, better than the 16 cent loss per share on revenue of $156.2 million expected, according to Bloomberg data. Slack ended the quarter with more than 105,000 customers, up by 30% over last year.

For the full year, Slack expects to see billings of between $745 million and $760 million, with the midpoint of this range coming below the $754.3 million expected. But Slack also raised full-year sales guidance to as much as $623 million, up by $13 million on the high end of its previous range. It expects an adjusted loss per share in the fourth quarter of as much as 7 cents, in-line with expectations.

Tiffany (TIF) posted disappointing third-quarter results as North American sales weakened further for the jeweler. The company recently announced it was set to be acquired by French luxury retail giant LVMH (MC.PA).

Third-quarter earnings per share were 65 cents on net sales of $1.01 billion, below the 85 cents a share on sales of $1.03 billion expected. Comparable same-store sales in the Americas sank 4% during the quarter, or worse than the decline of just 0.9% expected. Tiffany attributed this mostly to lower spending by foreign tourists, as well as some softness in local customer spending.

Asia remained a strong geographic segment for the company, however, with Asia Pacific comp sales rising 1%, and sales in Japan jumping 14%, versus a 3.8% gain expected. Comp sales in Europe also unexpectedly rose 4%, where a decline of 0.7% was expected.

Dollar General (DG) raised its full-year earnings guidance and posted accelerating sales growth and shrugged off some of the tariff concerns that plagued peer discount retailer Dollar Tree in its most recent quarter.

Dollar General’s net sales totaled $6.99 billion, rising 9% over last year and beating expectations for $6.92 billion. Third-quarter earnings per share were $1.42, or 4 cents above expectations. The company raised its full-year adjusted earnings guidance to as much as $6.65 a share, versus a previous outlook for as much as $6.60 a share.

ECONOMY: Jobless claims unexpectedly decline to lowest level since April

New unemployment claims fell by 10,000 to 203,000 for the week ended November 30, the Department of Labor said Thursday, in a strong final report on the U.S. labor market ahead of the “official” monthly November jobs report Friday.

Thursday’s print marked the lowest number of new jobless claims since mid-April. Consensus economist had expected initial jobless claims to rise to 215,000 for the week, according to Bloomberg data.

Continuing unemployment claims, however, rose more than expected to 1.693 million for the week ended November 23. Consensus economist had expected this to come in at 1.66 million, from an upwardly revised 1.642 million the week prior.

The U.S. trade deficit shrank to the narrowest level since May 2018 in October as trade with China slumped further, the Commerce Department said Thursday. The overall trade deficit came in at $47.2 billion for the month, versus the $48.5 billion expected. September’s trade deficit was revised slightly to $51.1 billion from $51.5 billion reported previously.

October’s decline in the deficit was driven by a 1.7% drop in imports, eclipsing a slight 0.2% decline in exports. Consumer goods imports were the main contributor to the drop, and merchandise imports from China fell 4.8% over the previous month to $35.3 billion. Exports to China sank 17%. The overall U.S. trade deficit with China declined to a seven-month low of $27.8 billion, seasonally adjusted.

Splitting up has been the predominant trend of the past 10 years.

Emily McCormick is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @emily_mcck

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South African Airways undergoing a ‘business rescue’

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South African Airways, the country’s beleaguered flag carrier, has entered into a new phase of government rescue.

The airline has received a new government-backed cash infusion of 2 billion rand (about $137 million) from its existing lenders, the latest in a series of government bailouts the struggling company has received in recent years.

The South African treasury matched that loan as part of the government’s business rescue plan for the airline.

Pravin Gordhan, South Africa’s public enterprises minister, announced the plan in a statement Friday.

“Our desire is that the restructured airline will mark the beginning of a new era in South African aviation,” the statement read in part. “It is also important that the reliance on government finances be reduced as soon as possible to minimize disruption to SAA services, customers, staff and other stakeholders.”

Under the plan, a “business rescue practitioner” will take control of the airline and help restructure the company, attempting to stabilize its operations and finances. South African expects to continue flying normally as it restructures.

“This set of actions should provide confidence to customers of SAA to continue to use the airline because there will not be any unplanned stoppages of flights or cancellation of flights without proper notice should that be necessary,” Gordhan’s statement said.

According to Gordhan’s, the company will try to retain as many jobs as possible as the business is reconfigured.

Despite the airline’s financial difficulties, the carrier seems confident in its financial position and has planned to add up to four Airbus A350s to its fleet. Some are already flying on long-haul routes, including to the U.S. The planes represent a significant upgrade to the airline’s onboard product over the old A340s they are replacing.

Featured photo by STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/Getty Images.

Zach Wichter
covers the aviation industry for TPG. He previously worked for The New York Times.





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Three Reasons Why Small Businesses Fail I Negosyo Tips I Jon Orana

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In this video, I talked about the 3 reasons why small businesses fail (and what you can do about it). Number 1 is what is likely experienced by many of us Filipinos.

For more negosyo, and money-making tips, click the link below:

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If it’s your first time to hear about me, my name is Jon Orana, and I’m the founder of Negosyo University.

We help people who are sick and tired of their jobs to design a lifestyle business so they can have more time, more money, and more freedom.

In just a few years, I mentored over 3,000 entrepreneurs, and some of them are now making multi-million pesos all from home.

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