Shell’s $70 billion mega-deal, and a Fed update — 5 things to know today
Hello friends and Fortune readers.
U.S. stock futures are higher this morning after a 102-point Dow rally fizzled Tuesday afternoon. Investors are looking to the Fed, which will release minutes from its March policy meeting later today, and they’re digesting a huge deal in the energy sector.
Here’s what you need to know about today.
1. Greece heads to Russia in search of extra cash.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow today, and both leaders will be looking to benefit. Greece has been battling for additional bailout money from EU leaders who have been reluctant to give the nation any more money until they’re willing to stick by the original bailout austerity standards. Tsipras could turn to the Kremlin for emergency loans and energy discounts. Putin, on the other hand, will be looking for an ally to help ease the EU’s current sanctions that ban imports of food products from the eurozone. (In reality, Greece may already by defaulting on its debt, explains Fortune’s Geoffrey Smith.)
2. The energy mega-merger is back.
Royal Dutch Shell (RDS) has agreed to buy smaller rival BG Group for $70 billion. The deal is the first oil mega-merger in more than a decade, as Shell looks to catch up to ExxonMobil, the world’s largest oil company. Shell will pay a mix of cash and stock worth about 1,367 pence per share, a nearly 50% premium on BG’s closing stock price yesterday. BG has some of the world’s largest liquefied natural gas projects and will help swell Shell’s oil and natural reserves by 28%. The deal, the biggest of 2015 to date, comes amid a collapse in global oil prices which initiated speculation about mergers in the industry. BG had often been named as a potential target.
3. An update from the Fed.
The Federal Reserve will release minutes from its March meeting this afternoon, and investors will be looking carefully for any details about the growth the central bank wants to see before it starts raising interest rates. The Fed reduced the federal funds rate to almost zero in December 2008, and rates have remained there ever since as the economy recovered from the worst recession since the 1930s. Many business bigwigs, including Warren Buffett and former GE CEO Jack Welch, say the central bank should hold off on any rate rise, given the strong U.S. dollar.
4. The “Pao effect” is kicking in around Silicon Valley.
Silicon Valley lawyers specializing in employment law are already seeing a “Pao effect,” as more women come forward with complaints of discrimination since Ellen Pao brought her case of sexual discrimination against venture capital fund Kleiner Perkins. Pao lost the case against her former employer, but that hasn’t stopped women in the industry from speaking up. In fact, these lawyers say their clients are now even more determined to speak up. “I see an activism, an interest, and concern like I never have before and that’s a good thing,” said Noreen Farrell, executive director of Equal Rights Advocates.
5. Alcoa kicks off earnings season.
The aluminum giant reports its first-quarter earnings after the market close, kicking off what is expected to be the weakest overall earnings season for top companies in over two years. Alcoa (AA) has struggled recently as aluminum prices dropped throughout this year. The company had to completely shut down smelting at its Brazil factory — it had been idling capacity since May. Investors will be waiting to hear if Alcoa remains upbeat given the continuing price drop in aluminum, though they are expecting the worst. Analysts expect earnings-per-share to be 26 cents in the first quarter, down from 33 cents in the quarter prior, according to FactSet.