Warren Buffett isn’t the only investor shying away from airlines
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Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett has abandoned the airline industry. During a virtual Buffett-palooza this weekend, the famed investor said his company had completely exited its stakes in four major U.S. airlines. “The world changed for airlines and I wish them well,” he said. (More here.)
Buffett isn’t alone in that sentiment. As part of our annual survey of Fortune 500 CEOs, we asked them to pick one Fortune 500 stock they would like to short. Airlines received the most mentions, followed by Boeing. (We’ll report full results of the survey as part of our Fortune 500 issue, out online May 18.)
Meanwhile, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff has been a whirlwind of activity during the pandemic, organizing his business colleagues and celebrity friends like Bono and Sacha Baron Cohen to source and ship some $50 million worth of PPE supplies to front-line health care workers, and challenging fellow CEOs not to lay off employees for 90 days.
This morning, Salesforce is announcing the launch of a new product, Work.com, to help businesses and communities safely reopen. In addition to providing a data “command center” for monitoring return-to-work readiness, the product will provide insights on reopening from health experts and business leaders.
Benioff will be Fortune’s guest on our new episode of the podcast Leadership Next, to be released tomorrow. You can find previous episodes here.
More news below.
Renewed tensions between the U.S. and China—the Trump administration is pushing hard on the so-far-evidence-free assertion that the novel coronavirus came from a Wuhan lab—have led stocks to fall around the world. Today, the Nikkei 225 was down 2.8% and the Hang Seng fell 4.3%. The Stoxx Europe 600 was down more than 2% in early trading. U.S. futures also point to a modest drop, following a rather dour Friday last week. Economic Times
J. Crew bankruptcy
J. Crew has filed for bankruptcy protection. The mass-market clothing firm is the first major retailer to be felled by the coronavirus pandemic, though it is deeply unlikely to be the last. J. Crew has struck a deal with creditors such as hedge fund Anchorage Capital that will convert $1.65 billion of its debt into equity for them. Its ecommerce operation should stay operational throughout the bankruptcy case, and J. Crew says it will reopen its J. Crew and Madewell stores post-lockdown. New York Times
Wall Street vs Hollywood
Elliott Management is financing a lawsuit brought against Jeffrey Katzenberg's Quibi streaming service by interactive-video firm Eko, the Wall Street Journal reports. Eko says Quibi is violating its patents and stole trade secrets—it's all to do with a feature that shows different videos depending on the orientation of the viewer's phone. Neither Katzenberg nor Elliott founder Paul Singer is a stranger to high-stakes litigation. WSJ
Telefonica and Liberty
Telefonica's O2 and Liberty Media's Virgin Media may finally merge to form the U.K.'s biggest telecoms operator, according to a Bloomberg report that says an announcement could come early this week. The deal would help Spain's Telefonica pay down its debt pile. Goldman Sachs reckons the combined entity would have an enterprise value of around $30 billion. Bloomberg
AROUND THE WATER COOLER
There's little consensus in the scientific community as to when a COVID-19 vaccine might appear—some say fall, some say January, some even say the end of 2021. And when it does come, it might become an annual event like the flu jab. Fortune
The European Commission has green-lit a €7 billion ($7.7 billion) French state-aid package for Air France. Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said the state guarantee and shareholder loan would "provide Air France with the liquidity that it urgently needs to withstand the impact of the coronavirus outbreak." Reuters
Norwegian Air Shuttle
Norwegian Air Shuttle might get its own state rescue, after announcing an agreement with aircraft leasing companies that will allow it to convert over $960 million of its debt into equity. Norwegian is in a particularly bad position, having gone into the coronavirus crisis with one of the industry's highest debt loads. Financial Times
AMC Theatres is furious with NBCUniversal for saying it will in future release movies across both cinemas and premium video on demand (PVOD), following the success of its Trolls World Tour online release. Cineworld, like AMC, is now saying it won't show films that "fail to respect" the traditional release windows. Universal has backed down slightly, but the spat highlights a fault line in the industry that had been quietly growing even before the lockdown. Fortune
This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.