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Johnson & Johnson to split into two to focus on drugs

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November 12, 2021

By Manas Mishra and Michael Erman

(Reuters) – Johnson & Johnson plans to spin off its consumer health division that sells Listerine and Baby Powder to focus on pharmaceuticals and medical devices in the biggest shake-up in the U.S. company’s 135-year history.

The move by the world’s largest health products company comes hot on the heels of similar announcements this week by industrial conglomerates Toshiba and General Electric and underscores how big, diversified corporations are under pressure to simplify.

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This has particularly been the case in healthcare, where the slow-and-steady business of selling products such as shampoos and moisturizers has increasingly diverged from the high-risk, high-reward work of developing and marketing blockbuster drugs.

“The new Johnson & Johnson and the new consumer health company would each be able to more effectively allocate resources to deliver for patients and consumers, drive growth and unlock significant value,” said Joaquin Duato, who is expected to become chief executive officer in January.

The company said it was aiming to complete the separation in 18 to 24 months, sending its shares up 4% before the bell.

Johnson & Johnson’s Band-Aids and cough remedies have long been the face of the company.

Now its pharmaceutical and medical equipment business, which makes cancer treatments, vaccines and surgical tools, is on track for nearly $80 billion in sales this year, way ahead of the $15 billion its consumer products are expected to bring in.

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The higher growth outlook comes despite disappointing sales of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine following a string of production setbacks and fierce competition from rivals such Pfizer and Moderna.

MONEY FOR DEALS?

Johnson & Johnson’s plan to hive off its consumer health business into a publicly traded company echoes a move by GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer Inc, which also plan to spin off their joint consumer health business next year.

German drugmaker Merck KGaA, meanwhile, sold its consumer health division to Procter & Gamble Co in 2018.

Johnson & Johnson’s consumer division has faced a spate of lawsuits alleging its talcum powder for babies causes cancer, which the company has denied.

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It has created a subsidiary to manage the multi-billion-dollar claims and Chief Executive Alex Gorsky said on Friday the decision to separate the consumer division had nothing to do with the lawsuits. It stopped selling the baby powder in the United States and Canada last year.

The medical device and pharmaceutical division has also faced lawsuits for some of its products.

Johnson & Johnson said last month it had settled most of the lawsuits it faced from thousands of men who claimed its anti-psychotic drug Risperdal caused them to develop excessive breast tissue. The company has recorded $800 million in expenses in connection with the agreement.

Jeff Jonas, asset manager at GAMCO Investors, said a spin-off would allow the company to be more acquisitive.

“Ultimately, when they do finish the consumer spin-off, they’ll probably raise a little bit of cash and put a little bit of debt on the consumer business, which would give them more money to do deals,” he said.

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(Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur, Carmel Crimmins and David Clarke)

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Apple starts legal action against Russian regulator in App Store dispute -RIA

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December 6, 2021

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Apple has started legal proceedings against Russia’s anti-monopoly regulator in a dispute concerning alternative payment options on its App Store platform, the RIA news agency reported on Sunday citing court filings.

Russia opened an antitrust case against Apple in late October, accusing it of failing to allow app developers to tell customers about alternative payment options when using its App Store. It said Apple could face a fine based on its revenue in Russia if found guilty.

In documents published on Dec. 1, the Moscow Arbitration Court listed Apple as a claimant and Russia’s Federal Anti-monopoly Service (FAS) as a defendant in “economic disputes over administrative legal relations.”

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Apple, which did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment, demanded that additional documents be added to the case on Dec. 2, RIA reported.

Forbes Russia cited a FAS representative as saying that the proceedings related to a warning it issued on Aug. 30 over Apple’s alleged failure to inform users they could also pay for purchases outside the App Store.

The FAS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Apple faced pushback over its App Store rules in the United States in September when a federal judge issued a ruling forcing the company to allow developers to send their users to other payment systems.

(Reporting by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

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Weaker foreign demand sinks German industrial orders in October

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December 6, 2021

By Michael Nienaber

BERLIN (Reuters) -Weaker demand from abroad drove a much bigger than expected drop in German industrial orders, including cars, in October, data showed on Monday, further clouding the growth outlook for manufacturers in Europe’s largest economy.

A pandemic-related scarcity of microchips and other electronic components has caused massive supply bottlenecks and production problems in Germany’s mighty automobile industry and other important sectors of the economy.

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Orders for goods ‘Made in Germany’ dropped 6.9% on the month in seasonally adjusted terms after a revised rise of 1.8% in September and a plunge of 8.8% in August, figures from the Federal Statistics Office showed.

A Reuters poll of analysts had pointed to a smaller decline of 0.5% on the month in October.

“After incoming orders climbed to an all-time high in mid-2021, the index has lost more than 16 points in recent months,” the economy ministry said, adding that the second sharp decline within three months put a further damper on the economic outlook.

Excluding distorting factors from bookings for big ticket items such as planes, industrial orders were still down 1.8%, the data showed.

The drop was driven by a decline in foreign orders of more than 13% on the month, with demand from countries outside the euro zone such as China particularly weak. Orders from domestic clients rose 3.4%.

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“New lockdowns in Asia are slowing industry in Germany,” VP Bank analyst Thomas Gitzel said. He added that the current wave of coronavirus infections across the globe was putting a renewed burden on the world economy.

Gitzel said that domestic demand should remain strong, helped by the new ruling coalition’s commitment to massive investment in the green economy.

“The decarbonization of the economy requires major investments in new technologies. German industry can and will benefit from this,” Gitzel said.

The weak orders data suggest that manufacturing will hamper overall economic growth in the coming months, with analysts expecting stagnation at best in the final quarter of this year.

(Reporting by Michael Nienaber, editing by Kirsti Knolle and Philippa Fletcher)

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Marketmind: Chasing the Omicron dip

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December 6, 2021

A look at the day ahead from Julien Ponthus.

Buying the dip triggered by the Omicron COVID-19 variant across global markets has proven a costly strategy so far. But some investors seem determined to have another go.

European and U.S. stocks futures are trading sharply higher after ending last week on a sour note and notwithstanding a dismal day in Asia where an MSCI index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan lost about 0.9%.

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The region has seen a series of corporate setbacks after ride-hailing giant Didi decided to withdraw from the New York stock exchange last week.

Shares in China Evergrande, the world’s most indebted developer, plunged 14% after it said there was no guarantee it would have enough funds to meet debt repayments.

Another giant, Alibaba dropped 5% after announcing it would reorganise its international and domestic e-commerce businesses. And U.S. regulatory opposition to the sale of Softbank-owned chip firm Arm pushed the Japanese conglomerate 8% lower.

But the mood is lighter already across Europe, allowing 10-year Treasury yields to claw back some of Friday’s falls which took them below 1.4% for the first time since late September.

There are five trading sessions left before Friday’s U.S. consumer price report which some reckon will provide the green light for the Federal Reserve to accelerate its tapering of bond purchases.

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Oil prices too rose by more than $1 a barrel after Saudi Arabia raised prices for its crude sold to Asia and the United States.

And if the market mood is perking up, there is no sign of that in Bitcoin which has fallen further and is now at $48,244 — some $20,000 below peaks hit a month ago.

Key developments that should provide more direction to markets on Monday:

-Vivendi is open to discuss with Rome over state control on TIM’s network

-Alibaba overhauls e-commerce businesses, names new CFO

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-Swiss National Bank Vice Chairman Zurbruegg to retire in July 2022

-Weaker foreign demand sinks German industrial orders in October

-CBI cuts UK economic growth forecasts on supply chain hit

-Euro zone finance ministers to discuss 2022 draft budgets, euro summit

– Russian President Vladimir Putin visits India

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– UK construction PMI/new car sales

-Euro zone finance ministers to discuss 2022 draft budgets, euro summit

BOE deputy Governor Broadbent, ECB Governor Lagarde and board member Panetta speak:

(Reporting by Julien Ponthus; editing by Sujata Rao)

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