Business Briefs – March 27, 2019

Facebook Extends Ban On Hate Speech to ‘White Nationalists’

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Facebook is extending its ban on hate speech to prohibit the promotion and support of white nationalism and white separatism. The company previously allowed such material even though it has long banned “white supremacists.” The social network says it hadn’t applied its ban to expressions of white nationalism because it previously linked such expressions with broader concepts of nationalism and separatism — such as American pride or Basque separatism, both of which are still allowed.

Trump Team and China Seek Elusive Deal as Latest Talks Near

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Trump administration and Chinese officials will hold their eight round of trade talks later this week in Beijing with several tough issues yet to be resolved, from a timetable for lifting tariffs to how to enforce any agreement. It’s unclear how far any agreement would go to address the long-standing Chinese trade practices that are at the heart of the conflict — from forced handover of foreign technology secrets to outright cyber-theft — and that the administration has said must end.

House Democrats Likely To Punt on Budget

WASHINGTON (AP) – House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth says he’s “not very hopeful” about passing a budget plan through the House this year. There are divisions between progressives seeking more money for domestic programs and more moderate lawmakers in swing districts who fear being attacked on tax hikes. Instead, Democrats are focusing on a measure that would permit the annual spending bills, which represent the one-third of the budget that Congress passes each year, to get underway.

Trump Seeks to End Government Control of Mortgage Companies

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Donald Trump has issued an order for the government to end its 10-year conservatorship of the mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The mortgage companies were placed under government control in September 2008 after the bursting of the housing bubble triggered a financial crisis that put the government-sponsored enterprises on the verge of failure.

Mr. Trump has directed Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to develop a plan to ensure that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can operate as private companies while preserving access to 30-year fixed-rate mortgages and minimizing risks to the broader economy.

The order also directs Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson to reduce risks to taxpayers from the housing finance support offered by the Federal Housing Administration.

Saudi Aramco Acquires $69b Stake In Petrochemical Firm SABIC

(AP) – Saudi Aramco has purchased a 70 percent share in petrochemical firm SABIC for $69.1 billion in a deal that pumps capital to the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund. Aramco says it acquired the majority stake in SABIC from the Public Investment Fund in a private transaction, leaving the remaining 30 percent of SABIC’s publicly traded shares untouched.

Lyft Hikes IPO Target to $70-$72 a Share

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Lyft is raising the price target for its initial public offering in a sign of the excitement surrounding the stock market debut of a ride-hailing service.

With the revision disclosed Wednesday, Lyft is now seeking $70 to $72 per share, up from its previous goal of $62 to $68.

The adjustment comes after Lyft’s management bankers spent a week meeting with investors to explain why buying its stock makes sense even though the company has an uninterrupted history of losses.

Warren Buffett’s Real Estate Company Now Largest in Nation

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – The real estate firm owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate is now the nation’s largest.

HomeServices of America said Wednesday that it ranked first last year after its associates helped close 346,629 residential real estate transactions. The ranking comes from the Real Trends 500 industry trade report.

HomeServices’ Executive Chairman Ron Peltier says being the biggest company in the market helps it lower costs by developing tools and software centrally for its real estate professionals to use.

The Minneapolis-based company has grown both by attracting more agents and by acquiring other firms. The company includes Berkshire Hathaway Home Services, Real Living Real Estate and a number of other brands.