BP Reports a Deep Loss and Cuts Its Dividend: Live Business Updates

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BP reported a $16.8 billion quarterly loss on Tuesday, and cut its dividend in half for the first time since the Deepwater Horizon disaster a decade ago, as lower oil prices and plunging demand from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic took a toll on the London-based energy giant.

At the same time, the company took $17. 4 billion in write-offs in exploration and other activities, and cut its forecasts for oil and gas prices.

In cutting its dividend to 5.25 cents a share, BP said that it would prioritize keeping the payout at that level. The company has previously said it would cut about 10,000 jobs, with the majority expected to leave this year.

On a call with journalists on Tuesday, the company’s chief executive, Bernard Looney, outlined an effort to shift BP away from its focus on oil to what he called an “integrated energy company.”

Among the highlights of his presentation: BP will increase its investments in low-carbon energy, like solar and wind power, by tenfold in a decade, while cutting its oil and gas production by 40 percent. He also said BP would not begin exploration in any new countries.

By the end of the decade, he said, oil and gas would make up about half of the company’s capital investments, with renewables and other non-oil investments accounting for the rest.

Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

Caterers say they are taking a financial beating, with some expecting their business to be down between 80 and 90 percent this year. But many feel better situated than those in the restaurant business. Instead of paying often expensive rent in desirable locations like most restaurants, caterers typically pay less for large kitchens that can be off the beaten track.

Moreover, caterers tend to be a nimble group of entrepreneurs, adept at providing finicky brides with their every heart’s whim and overcoming the oddest of logistical challenges. Those traits have helped them during the pandemic.

“We have huge logistical expertise,” said Peter Callahan of Peter Callahan Catering, whose clients include some of New York’s wealthiest financiers and whose specialty is mini food like one-bite cheeseburgers and tiny grilled cheese sandwiches. “When you’re an off-premise caterer, you might be doing an event that requires barges to get to a private island with no vehicles.

“We’re creative thinkers, and right now people are thinking about how to shape their businesses for the need at hand,” he added.

Holly Sheppard started her Brooklyn catering business, Fig & Pig, in 2011. She was in the middle of preparing a meal for 600 people in mid-March when the client called, canceling the event. After that, the cancellations and postponements rolled in.

With her calendar now largely empty through the fall, Ms. Sheppard gave up the lease on her apartment in Brooklyn, worked out a deal with the landlord for her kitchen to pay what she can now and make it up next year, and moved to her house in Tillson, N.Y.

There, she bought a smoker and is honing her skills, planning to add barbecue to her catering options.

“I’m going to be a female pitmaster on the roadside in upstate New York until the weddings come back,” Ms. Sheppard said. “I’m going to make it through all of this. Closing isn’t even an option. I’m a scrapper.”

Credit…Eve Edelheit for The New York Times

More than 800 craft distillers across the United States leapt into action to help in the first wave of the pandemic by producing hand sanitizer, urged on by federal agencies. But with demand for sanitizer fluctuating, distillers have faced unforeseen costs and excess supplies that they could not get rid of.

Their conundrum shows how life has become more complicated as the pandemic has persisted. What had been a no-brainer good Samaritan decision to help local communities and nurture a new business has instead devolved into a messy financial calculus as the hardships of the crisis continue piling up.

“It feels a little bit like no good deed is going unpunished right now,” said Spencer Whelan, the director of the Texas Whiskey Association, a trade group representing some of the state’s distillers.

The prospect of replacing liquor revenue with sanitizer sales piqued the interest of Jonathan Eagan, the co-owner of the Arizona Distilling Company in Tempe., Ariz. He spent $50,000 on alcohol to produce the disinfectant in the spring, and said he quickly sold enough of it to make up for two months in lost liquor sales.

That money was crucial, given that bars, restaurants and tours — the distillers’ main sources of income — were hobbled. But even as distillers ramped up sanitizer production, that lifeline also started petering out. As panic-buying of the disinfectant leveled off and production among larger companies stabilized, “the business just kind of dried up” in the last few weeks, said Mr. Eagan.

Now as Arizona deals with new virus cases, much of his remaining 1,000 gallons of sanitizer has sat idle.

Credit…Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

The Federal Aviation Administration on Monday proposed changes that Boeing must make to the 737 Max, potentially clearing the way for the plane to start flying again by the end of the year.

The changes include updating the plane’s flight control software, revising crew procedures and rerouting internal wiring. Once formally published, the proposal will be open to public comment for 45 days, after which the agency will issue a final ruling.

The agency concluded in a related report published on Monday that its proposal was in line with Boeing’s recommendations. The report said the company’s recommendations had sufficiently addressed the problems that contributed to two fatal crashes, resulting in the worldwide grounding of the jet.

“The F.A.A. has preliminarily determined that Boeing’s proposed changes to the 737 Max design, flight crew procedures and maintenance procedures effectively mitigate the airplane-related safety issues that contributed” to crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that killed 346 people, the agency said.

The Max has been grounded since March 2019, costing Boeing billions of dollars.

Once the F.A.A.’s proposal is official, Boeing can begin to make the changes and ready the planes for flight, a process that could take more than a week per jet and involves system checks, deep cleaning and software updates. The company will have to do that for hundreds of planes that customers have already received and hundreds more that Boeing has made but not delivered.

Several other obstacles remain before the F.A.A. lifts its grounding order on the plane, including the development of pilot training requirements and the review and filing of additional documentation.

Credit…Edgard Garrido/Reuters

The president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago said the central bank had limited room to do more and that Congress would need to support the economy if the United States faced a full-fledged second wave of coronavirus infections.

“The punchline ought to be that the ball is in Congress’s court,” Charles Evans, president of the Chicago Fed, said on a call with reporters.

The Federal Reserve cut its primary interest rate, the federal funds rate, to near-zero in March. Central banks abroad have cut borrowing costs into negative territory, but Fed officials have been consistently skeptical that such policies will be effective.

“We can’t lower the funds rate. Negative interest rates aren’t going to be the tool that we decide to use at this point, or probably at any point,” Mr. Evans said.

The Fed might be able to use a policy that would cap certain interest rates — an approach commonly called “yield curve control” — but Mr. Evans suggested that slightly higher medium-term rates are not the real economic problem. The Fed has the ability to offer emergency loans to backstop turbulent markets, but businesses and governments might need grants to make it through.

“At the moment, it’s really fiscal policy that needs to be addressing this,” he said. Even now, more congressional support is needed to shore up the economy as the pandemic wears on, Mr. Evans said.

The Chicago Fed chief was not alone in arguing that recently lapsed expanded unemployment benefits should be in some way addressed, as Congress debates the future of its pandemic response.

Thomas Barkin, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, warned that the pandemic might be creating an economic “sinkhole,” rather than the pothole policymakers initially believed they were facing. Robert S. Kaplan, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, said in an interview on Bloomberg television on Monday that the policies had helped to bolster consumers, adding that “it’s important that we see an extension of it.”

  • J.C. Penney, the cornerstone of American malls, was the latest retailer to announce it would not open Thanksgiving Day this year. Other major chains, including Walmart and Target, have said they would push the start of holiday shopping back to Black Friday, often casting the change as in honor of the work of their front-line employees. J.C. Penney, which filed for bankruptcy in May, said in a statement that the move was intended to allow both associates and customers “to stay safe, relax, and enjoy the day.”

  • Websites publishing coronavirus-related misinformation are being supported financially by tapping into internet advertising networks owned by Google and Amazon, according to a new Oxford University study. Many of the sites sell products promising to cure or prevent the disease. Even though the sites have a relatively low audience, they muddy the information ecosystem and undermine the broader public health response. One of the researchers said that Google and Amazon should consider developing a blacklist that blocks website with a history of sharing false and misleading information about the pandemic.

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