Hello friends and Fortune readers.
A nearly $44 billion merger between two global building materials companies looks back on track after the two sides changed the terms of the deal to appease some investors. The merger is between Swiss-based Holcim and France’s Lafarge. The deal, first announced in April 2014, would be the industry’s biggest ever tie-up.
Meanwhile, the strength of the U.S. dollar curiously hurt Tiffany (TIF) results at home. The luxury jewelry company said that foreign tourists that visit the U.S. spent less at the company’s stores, which makes sense considering much of their currency is worth less and would thus curtail spending while on vacation. Darden Restaurants (DRI), the parent of the Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse chains, released results this morning too, and showed improvement.
Also, the Obama administration is expected to issue regulations for fracking in the oil and natural gas industries today, according to a report.
Here’s what else you need to know about.
1. Cement merger back on track.
The €41 billion ($43.8 billion) merger of global building materials giants Holcim (HCMLY) and Lafarge SA (LFRGY) is on a smoother course after the two sides agreed to change the deal’s terms to favor Holcim. Holcim shareholders will get a bigger share of the merged company, a concession to appease investors that had called for better terms as Holcim has performed far better than Lafarge since the deal was announced.
2. Yuan gains surprise traders.
China’s yuan has posted its best week in over seven years, rising 0.9% against the U.S. dollar since Monday, according to The Wall Street Journal. The Journal reports that China has stepped into the market to drive the currency higher and kicked out some speculators bettering on losses as the economy there slows. The gains this week have surprised traders, especially after four months of losses, but also serve as reminder that Beijing keeps the currency on a tight leash and won’t allow heavy losses or speculation.
3. HTC Chairwoman also named CEO.
Taiwanese smartphone maker HTC Corp. has named Chairwoman Cher Wang as CEO, replacing longtime chief executive Peter Chou. Chou, a co-founder and the company’s CEO for more than a decade, will stay at the company and head product innovation. Wang, also a co-founder of HTC, has ranked on Fortune‘s “Most Powerful Women” list continuously since 2012. Over the past two years, she has been increasingly involved in leading various aspects of HTC’s business, which gave Chou more flexibility to focus on product development. The change comes as HTC has reported three straight quarters of profit, though analysts fear competition will heighten in 2015 as the smartphone market becomes more crowded.
4. Tiffany sales hurt by weaker spending from tourists.
Tiffany reported fourth-quarter sales slipped 1% to $1.3 billion from the prior year, hurt by the stronger U.S. dollar that has led to weaker results for many multinational corporations for the latest earnings cycle. In the Americas, sales were flat, also hurt by the U.S. dollar, because Tiffany management believes foreign tourists were less willing to spend money on big-ticket items like jewelry when visiting the U.S. Global sales would have increased 3% on a constant exchange-rate basis, bolstered by growth in Europe and the Asia Pacific regions.
5. Greece promises to outline reforms.
Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras promised on late Thursday to submit a more concrete list of reforms to the country’s creditors in the Eurozone, a move that would allow the nation to unlock the remaining billions in its bailout agreement and avoid a messy bankruptcy. Tsipras’ statement came after a meeting with Germany’s Angela Merkel and other senior European officials, Fortune reported. Tsipras has been trying to win an agreement that would ease the bailout’s conditions but comments from Merkel suggest a hardline stance on reforms.