Business Briefs – January 16, 2019

Sears Staves Off Liquidation, Stores to Remain Open

NEW YORK (AP) — Sears will live on— at least for now.

The company’s chairman and largest shareholder, Eddie Lampert, won a bankruptcy auction for Sears, averting liquidation of the iconic chain, according to a source familiar with the negotiations. The person agreed to speak on condition of anonymity.

Lampert, who steered the company into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October, is aiming to keep open roughly 400 stores and save tens of thousands of jobs.

But how long Sears can survive under the 56-year-old billionaire, who has tried and failed to turn around the company many times before, remains an open question. Cutthroat competitors like Amazon, Target and Walmart also pose challenges that the struggling retailer has so far been unable to overcome.

Taking Stock: U.K. Businesses Brace for No-Deal Brexit

DUNSTABLE, England (AP) — Brexit has British business owners on edge — and that is great news for Lovespace, a storage and warehousing company outside London.

Lovespace, which collects boxes from customers, stores them and then returns the goods when needed, says revenue from businesses doubled over the past year and inquiries quadrupled as enterprises large and small began stockpiling inventory because of concerns they will be cut off from suppliers if Britain leaves the European Union without an agreement on future trading relations.

“People are working out how to store stuff — how to get things to their own customers as the year progresses,” CEO Steve Folwell said as workers moved boxes around the company’s 20,000 square-foot warehouse in Dunstable, about 35 miles northwest of London. “There’s uncertainty because of Brexit and there’s a lack of trust in the political process at the moment.”

World Economic Forum Warns Of Impact of Global Tensions

LONDON (AP) – Tensions in international relations and nationalist politics may further weigh on the global economy this year, organizers of next week’s gathering of business and political leaders in the Swiss ski resort of Davos warned Wednesday.

In its annual Global Risks Report, the World Economic Forum said a “darkening” economic outlook, in part fostered by geopolitical tensions between the United States and China, “looks set to further reduce the potential for international cooperation in 2019.”

In 2018, the global economy slowed more than most forecasters had been predicting and stock markets around the world posted their worst year in a decade. Some of that has been blamed on the standoff between the U.S. and China over trade that has led to both sides imposing tariffs on hundreds of billions worth of goods.

Fed Survey Finds Businesses Worried by Political Uncertainty

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve said Wednesday business contacts in many regions of the country are expressing less optimism amid a host of adverse developments, from plunging stock prices to uncertainty about a widening trade war.

In its latest report on economic conditions around the country, the Fed said that eight of its 12 regions reported the economy was expanding at a moderate pace as the new year began.

While the outlook remained generally positive, the report said that business executives had grown more worried about “increased financial market volatility, rising short-term interest rates, falling energy prices and elevated trade and political uncertainty.”

Hyundai, Kia Recall Vehicles Due to Increased Fire Risk

DETROIT (AP) — Despite a government shutdown, Hyundai and Kia are moving ahead with a recall of about 168,000 vehicles to fix a fuel pipe problem that can cause engine fires. The problem stems from improper repairs during previous recalls for engine failures.

The affiliated Korean automakers have been dogged by fire and engine failure complaints from across the nation. They’re both under investigation by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which has been trying to figure out whether initial recalls covered enough vehicles. But the agency is mostly closed due to the shutdown.

In addition to the recall, each automaker says it will do a “product improvement campaign” covering a total of 3.7 million vehicles to install software that will alert drivers of possible engine failures and send the cars into a reduced-speed “limp” mode if problems are detected.