CVS, Walmart reach new agreement for pharmacy network

FILE PHOTO: A logo of CVS Health is displayed on a monitor above the floor of the New York Stock Exchange shortly after the opening bell in New York, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

(Reuters) – CVS Health Corp (CVS.N) and Walmart Inc (WMT.N) reached a multi-year agreement, under which Walmart will continue participating in CVS’s pharmacy benefit management commercial and Medicaid retail pharmacy networks, the companies said on Friday.

Financial terms of the new contract were not disclosed.

On Tuesday, CVS said Walmart was leaving its network for commercial and Medicaid prescription drug plans after the two failed to agree on pricing.

Reporting by Ankur Banerjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta

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UPDATE 3-Internet blacked out in Zimbabwe as U.N. urges end to crackdown

HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwe was under an internet blackout on Friday after authorities extended a communications ban to cover emails, while the United Nations urged an end to a security crackdown on civilians triggered by days of deadly protests.

FILE PHOTO: A Zimbabwean man speaks on his phone outside a branch of mobile service provider Econet Wireless in central Harare, June 6, 2014. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo/File Photo

The government has said three people died during demonstrations that broke out on Monday after President Emmerson Mnangagwa raised fuel prices by 150 percent. Lawyers and activists say the toll was much higher and that security forces used violence and carried out mass arrests to quell the unrest.

In Geneva, The U.N. human rights office called on the government to stop the crackdown and denounced allegations of “generalized intimidation and harassment” of protesters.

As life returned to a semblance of normality in Harare, civilians ventured outside to stock up on food and other supplies while police continued to patrol the streets.

Jacob Mafume, spokesman for the main Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) opposition party, said he feared the web blackout was a prelude to more violence.

“The total shutdown of the internet is simply to enable crimes against humanity,” he told Reuters. “The world must quickly step in to remove this blanket of darkness that has been put on the country.”

Authorities have yet to respond to the allegations of a crackdown, but many Zimbabweans believe Mnangagwa is falling back on the tactics of his predecessor Robert Mugabe by using intimidation to crush dissent.

The president has also failed to make good on pre-election pledges to kick-start the ailing economy – beset by high inflation and a currency shortage, and the trigger for this week’s protests.

Referring to allegations of night-time door-to-door searches against demonstrators and beatings by police, U.N. human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said hospital medics had treated more than 60 people for gunshot wounds.

“This is not way to react to the expression of economic grievances by the population,” she said.

One Harare schoolteacher waiting in a fuel station line said filling his petrol tank twice a month would now cost him $528 rather than $230.

“I will have to probably cut on some other things or simply decide not to drive to work,” Gilbert Kepekepe told Reuters.

PASTOR MAWARIRE IN COURT

Activist group Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said it was representing more than 130 people arrested following the protests.

They include activist pastor Evan Mawarire, who appeared in court on Friday for magistrates to rule if he has a case to answer on charges of subverting the government.

Mawarire, who rose to prominence as a critic of Mugabe and led a national protest in 2016, was tried and acquitted on similar charges in 2017. He faces up to 20 years in jail if convicted.

Mawarire was arrested on Wednesday after encouraging Zimbabweans in social media posts to heed a strike call from unions.

Government officials were not immediately available for comment on the internet blackout, which critics say is an attempt to prevent images of heavy-handedness from being broadcast around the world.

Authorities partly cut off internet access on Tuesday, while Friday’s fuller shutdown also affected emails.

Leading mobile operator Econet Wireless said the government had ordered it to shut down services.

“We were served with another directive for total shutdown of the internet until further notice,” it said in a statement. “Our lawyers advised that we are required to comply (pending a court ruling).”

Due to the shutdown, Harare banks were providing only partial services and no cash machines were working, a Reuters witness said, while long queues formed at petrol stations and shops.

Additional reporting by Tonderai Gonorenda and by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Writing by John Stonestreet; editing by James Macharia

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Trump-Deutsche Bank links in sights of U.S. House investigators

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democrats now in control of the U.S. House of Representatives are working out which House panels will take the lead in investigating President Donald Trump’s business ties to Deutsche Bank, lawmakers and aides familiar with the plans told Reuters.

FILE PHOTO: A Deutsche Bank sign is seen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York, U.S., January 15, 2014. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

As the new Democratic House of Representatives majority launches a range of investigations into the Republican president and his businesses, the Intelligence Committee and Financial Services Committee are poised to dig into his ties with Deutsche (DBKGn.DE), one of the world’s largest financial institutions.

Democratic lawmakers’ aides are discussing how to divide up the investigative work among committees and prevent overlap on requesting documents, aides said.

Since U.S. voters on Nov. 6 shifted majority control of the House from the Republicans to the Democrats, the party has been promising to probe the first two years of Trump’s administration and possible conflicts of interest presented by his hotel, golf course and other ventures, as well as Trump family members.

White House officials did not respond to a request for comment. The White House in the past has referred questions about Trump businesses to the Trump Organization.

Officials at the Trump Organization could not immediately be reached for comment.

A Deutsche Bank spokesman said: “Deutsche Bank takes its legal obligations seriously and remains committed to cooperating with authorized investigations. Our recent record of cooperating with such investigations has been widely recognized by regulators. We intend to keep working in this spirit.”

The Financial Services Committee, chaired by Democrat Maxine Waters, has the broadest power to look into Trump’s relationship with Deutsche.

When the Republicans still controlled the House, Waters tried in 2017 to request documents from the bank on its dealings with Trump and his businesses, as well as information about potential Russian money laundering through the bank.

But the bank told Congress that privacy laws prevented it from handing over such information without a formal subpoena. Committee Republicans ignored Waters’ request. As chairwoman, Waters can now issue subpoenas herself.

In recent weeks, Waters has been publicly quiet about her plans. In a speech on Monday on committee priorities, she made no mention of the bank. A Waters spokesman declined to comment.

Democratic aides outside the committee said Waters plans to move quietly on the Deutsche inquiry. She cannot begin formally issuing subpoenas until after the committee holds its first business meeting, expected by the end of January.

Deutsche has extended millions of dollars in credit to the Trump Organization, making the bank one of few willing to lend extensively to Trump in the past decade.

A 2017 financial disclosure form showed liabilities for Trump of at least $130 million to Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas, a unit of German-based Deutsche Bank AG.

House Intelligence Committee Democrats also want to investigate Trump and his Deutsche links, said three congressional officials familiar with committee discussions.

A Judiciary Committee spokesman said it has been consulted.

Reporting by Mark Hosenball and Ginger Gibson; editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Lisa Shumaker

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UPDATE 1-Tencent weighing bid for holding company behind Korea’s Nexon -sources

Logo of Tencent is displayed at a news conference in Hong Kong, China March 22, 2017. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

HONG KONG/SEOUL (Reuters) – Chinese gaming titan Tencent Holdings Ltd is considering a bid for the holding company that controls South Korean gaming company Nexon, two sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

Tencent is looking to enlist co-investors, the sources said. One of the sources also said private equity firms are studying options for a deal, including taking the listed company private.

Nexon founder Kim Jung-ju plans to sell a controlling 98.64 percent stake in Nexon’s holding firm NXC Corp, held by himself and related parties including his wife, the Korea Economic Daily newspaper reported this month.

The stake is worth between 8 trillion and 10 trillion won ($7.1 billion and $8.9 billion), according to reports from Korea Economic Daily and the Maeil Business Newspaper.

Deutsche Bank and Morgan Stanley are running the sale, sources told Reuters. The two banks declined to comment.

The Maeil Business Newspaper said Tencent has picked Goldman Sachs as adviser, citing unidentified sources. It added that other potential bidders include KKR & Co Inc, TPG Capital, Carlyle Group and MBK Partners.

NXC and Tencent declined to comment.

Reporting by Kane Wu in Hong Kong and Heekyong Yang in Seoul; additional reporting by Julie Zhu in Hong Kong, Cate Cadell in Beijing; editing by Sayantani Ghosh and Jason Neely

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PRESS DIGEST – Canada – Jan 18

Jan 18 (Reuters) – The following are the top stories from selected Canadian newspapers. Reuters has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy.

THE GLOBE AND MAIL

** Hootsuite Media Inc has abandoned a process that could have led to a sale of the company after preliminary offers came in below expectations, according to sources familiar with the matter. tgam.ca/2Hk8wsu

** Toronto police say they have cracked a taxi-fraud scam that allegedly stole substantial amounts of money from hundreds of cab users over the past year in the Greater Toronto Area. tgam.ca/2Hm9nJk

** Quebec’s leading pension fund has hired a well-known deal-maker from Bank of Nova Scotia to join its executive ranks. On Thursday, Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec announced the hire of Charles Émond as an executive vice-president in charge of its investment strategy in Quebec, as well as with helping co-ordinate its global footprint. tgam.ca/2RSnHgK

NATIONAL POST

** Husky Energy Inc blamed a combination of pipeline problems and an Alberta government-mandated oil production curtailment for its failed hostile takeover bid of MEG Energy Corp on Thursday. bit.ly/2RTpbqT (Compiled by Bengaluru newsroom)

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Foxconn cuts 50,000 contract jobs in China: Nikkei

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Foxconn, the trading name of Hon Hai Precision Industry, is seen on top of the company’s building in Taipei, Taiwan March 30, 2018. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

(Reuters) – Apple Inc’s (AAPL.O) biggest iPhone assembler Foxconn Technology Group (2317.TW) has let go around 50,000 contract workers in China since October, months earlier than normal, Nikkei reported on Friday.

The scale of the cuts is not necessarily deeper than previous years, it is simply significantly earlier, the report said, citing an industry source familiar with the situation.

“It’s quite different this year to ask assembly line workers to leave before the year-end,” the source told Nikkei.

Foxconn, formally known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd, was not immediately available for a comment.

Earlier this month, Nikkei reported reut.rs/2szSxwf that Apple cut current quarter production plan for new iPhones by 10 percent in the face of slowing demand in China, the world’s largest smartphone market.

Reporting by Arundhati Sarkar in Bengaluru

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Tencent considering bid for gaming company Nexon’s parent – sources

HONG KONG/SEOUL, Jan 18 (Reuters) – Chinese gaming titan Tencent Holdings Ltd is considering a bid for the holding company that controls South Korean gaming company Nexon , two sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

Tencent is looking to enlist co-investors, the sources said. One of the sources also said private equity firms are studying options for a deal, including taking the listed company private.

Nexon founder Kim Jung-ju plans to sell a controlling 98.64 percent stake in Nexon’s holding firm NXC Corp, held by himself and related parties including his wife, the Korea Economic Daily newspaper reported this month.

The stake is worth between 8 trillion and 10 trillion won ($7.1 billion and $8.9 billion), according to reports from Korea Economic Daily and the Maeil Business Newspaper.

Deutsche Bank and Morgan Stanley are running the sale, sources told Reuters.

Morgan Stanley declined to comment. Deutsche Bank was not immediately available for comment.

The Maeil Business Newspaper said Tencent has picked Goldman Sachs as adviser, citing unidentified sources. It added that other potential bidders include KKR & Co Inc, TPG Capital, Carlyle Group and MBK Partners.

NXC and Tencent declined to comment.

$1 = 1,121.7100 won
Reporting by Kane Wu in Hong Kong and Heekyong Yang in Seoul
Additional reporting by Julie Zhu in Hong Kong
Editing by Sayantani Ghosh

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Tesla to cut more than 3,000 jobs as cars ‘too expensive’

Tesla Motors Inc Chief Executive Elon Musk pauses during a news conference in Tokyo September 8, 2014.Image copyright Reuters

Electric carmaker Tesla has said it will cut its workforce by 7% after the “most challenging” year in its history.

In an email to employees, shared on the firm’s website, founder Elon Musk said that growth at the firm had been strong.

But he added the firm’s cars were still “too expensive for most people” and the road ahead was “very difficult”.

The firm employs more than 45,000 people currently meaning it will lay off over 3,000.

Mr Musk said 2018 was Tesla’s “most successful” yet, in which it delivered almost as many cars as it had in all the previous years of its existence combined.

However, while it ramped up production of its mid market Model 3 car, it said its products were too expensive for most people and its profits too low.

“This quarter will hopefully allow us, with great difficulty, effort and some luck, to target a tiny profit,” he wrote.

“However, starting around May, we will need to deliver at least the mid-range Model 3 variant in all markets, as we need to reach more customers who can afford our vehicles.

“Moreover, we need to continue making progress towards lower priced variants of Model 3.”

He said as a result of the firm’s challenges, Tesla had “no choice” but to reduce full-time employee headcount and retain “only the most critical temps and contractors”.

He added the firm would need to make these cuts while “increasing the Model 3 production rate” and making many “manufacturing engineering improvements in the coming months”.

Tesla to cut workforce by 7 percent while it ramps up Model 3 production

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Tesla is seen in Taipei, Taiwan August 11, 2017. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo

(Reuters) – Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) said on Friday it was cutting several thousands of jobs, as the electric car maker looks to trim costs and be consistently profitable while it ramps up the production of its crucial Model 3 sedan.

Tesla shares fell 4.1 percent to $333 in premarket trading

“Tesla will need to make these cuts while increasing the Model 3 production rate and making many manufacturing engineering improvements in the coming months,” Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said in an email to employees that was published on the company’s blog.

“There isn’t any other way,” he said.

The company said it would reduce full-time employee headcount by about 7 percent and retain only the most critical temps and contractors.

Earlier this month, Tesla cut U.S. prices for all its vehicles to offset lower green tax credits, and fell short on quarterly deliveries of its mass-market Model 3 sedan.

Musk said the company is on target to report a GAAP profit in its fourth quarter, but less than the previous three-month period.

“This quarter, as with Q3, shipment of higher priced Model 3 variants (this time to Europe and Asia) will hopefully allow us, with great difficulty, effort and some luck, to target a tiny profit,” Musk said.

Reporting by Shubham Kalia in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard Orr

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RPT-U.S. refiners scramble as White House eyes Venezuela sanctions

(Repeats with no changes)

By Marianna Parraga and Collin Eaton

Jan 17 (Reuters) – U.S. refiners are bidding up prices for scarce types of crude oil needed for their most sophisticated plants as the United States reconsiders harsher sanctions on Venezuela that could further reduce imports of the country’s oil.

Trump administration officials in recent days met with U.S. oil company executives to lay out potential actions in response to the Jan. 10 inauguration of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in an election it considered illegitimate.

Among other steps, U.S. officials have recognized the opposition-run Venezuelan congress as the only legitimately elected authority. But the proposals that would most affect the energy industry involve banning U.S. exports of refined products or limiting oil imports – a move that, until now, the White House has not taken even after sanctioning individuals and barring access to U.S. banks.

“It’s more serious than I’ve heard before,” said a refining industry executive familiar with the White House discussions. “They are setting the table to pull the trigger if they have to.”

U.S. refiners have few supply alternatives if the Trump administration were to cut off crude imports from that country. Supplies of the heavy oils preferred by Gulf Coast refiners have been harder to secure in recent months because of cutbacks and production curbs in Western Canada, Mexico and Venezuela.

One type of U.S. heavy oil, called Mars, traded at a $6.80 per barrel premium to U.S. crude futures on Thursday, the strongest in nearly five years and up from a $4.50 per barrel premium on Tuesday, a U.S. oil broker said.

U.S. oil companies that depend on Venezuelan oil have opposed past proposals that would halt imports and did so again this week, said several people close to the talks. Two big refiners, Phillips 66 and PBF Energy, cut their dependence on the South American country last year, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration data.

Latin American advisors have warned the administration that oil sanctions could backfire by making the United States appear too involved in the Venezuelan political crisis, said a person familiar with talks among the White House, the National Security Council and oil firms.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has become directly involved, accelerating possible financial and political steps against Maduro, the person said. State Department spokespeople were not immediately available for comment.

Venezuela exported 500,013 barrels per day to the United States last year, down from 591,422 bpd in 2017.

The largest U.S. importers of Venezuelan oil last year were Citgo Petroleum, the U.S. refining arm of Venezuela’s state-run oil company PDVSA, Valero Energy, Chevron Corp and PBF Energy.

Citgo, Valero and PBF Energy either did not respond to requests for comment or declined to comment. Chevron declined to comment on the potential for sanctions, but said it actively manages supplies and has plans in place to make necessary adjustments to ensure it can supply customers.

White House officials are aware hitting Venezuela with oil sanctions could deepen the humanitarian crisis there and hurt U.S. businesses and consumers by raising fuel prices.

“With regard to sanctions, all options are on the table,” said Garrett Marquis, spokesman for the White House National Security Council who declined to discuss specifics of the deliberations.

Mexico, a supplier of heavy crude, reported its production dropped to 1.72 million barrels per day in November, from 1.93 million bpd at the start of the year. (Reporting by Marianna Parraga and Colin Eaton; Additional reporting by Jarrett Renshaw in New York and Matt Spetalnick in Washington; Writing by Gary McWilliams; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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