Uber’s Food Delivery Business Nearly Matches Ride-Sharing

Credit…Mark Abramson for The New York Times

While Uber’s ride-hailing business remains slow because of travel restrictions related to the pandemic, the company said on Wednesday that its food delivery business was booming.

Uber said its overall revenue in the fourth quarter of last year was $3.2 billion, a 16 percent decline from the previous year. Its losses for the quarter, $968 million, were a 12 percent improvement.

Ride hailing declined precipitously during the early days of the pandemic. Although there has been some recovery, Uber is still not back where it was at the beginning of 2019.

But food delivery has been a bright spot. Delivery orders were up 128 percent, while bookings for rides were down 47 percent from the fourth quarter of 2019, the company said. Uber Eats, the company’s delivery arm, brought in $1.35 billion in revenue in the fourth quarter and nearly out-earned the rides business, which brought in $1.47 billion.

The question for Wall Street is whether Uber Eats is growing faster than competitors like Grubhub and DoorDash, which reports its earnings later this month. “The focus is on growth,” said Tom White, a senior research analyst at D.A. Davidson. “Who is gaining market share?”

Uber sold off several of its unprofitable business ventures over the last year, including its autonomous vehicle development group and its bike and scooter rental business. It doubled down on delivery, acquiring Postmates, a competing food delivery company, and Drizly, an alcohol delivery service.

“While 2020 certainly tested our resilience, it also dramatically accelerated our capabilities in local commerce, with our delivery business more than doubling over the year,” Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber’s chief executive, said in a statement.

Bruce Springsteen in 2017. His Super Bowl ad for Jeep was his first appearance in a commercial.
Credit…Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

After spending years courting Bruce Springsteen to appear in his first commercial, Jeep took down the ad on Wednesday after news broke that the rock legend had been charged with drunken driving in November.

The two-minute spot, which featured Mr. Springsteen in the rural middle of the country, urging unity from a white Jeep, was made last month and aired during the Super Bowl on Sunday. Time for the broadcast, the biggest television event of the year, cost most advertisers $5.5 million for 30 seconds.

The charges against Mr. Springsteen, which included reckless driving and driving while intoxicated in New Jersey on Nov. 14, became public on Wednesday. His first virtual court appearance is likely to occur toward the end of February.

Jeep removed the Super Bowl ad, which was made by a creative team chosen by Mr. Springsteen, from its Twitter feed and YouTube page. The commercial was the second-most-watched game-day spot on YouTube on Sunday night, behind Amazon’s ad and ahead of commercials by Cadillac and Uber Eats, according to the platform.

“It would be inappropriate for us to comment on the details of a matter we have only read about and we cannot substantiate,” Jeep said in a statement. “But it’s also right that we pause our Big Game commercial until the actual facts can be established.”

“Its message of community and unity is as relevant as ever,” the company said. “As is the message that drinking and driving can never be condoned.”

Jim Farley, the chief executive of Ford, with an F-150 pickup truck. Ford hopes to sell an all-electric version of the truck by mid-2022.
Credit…Rebecca Cook/Reuters

A Korean company can move forward with plans to produce batteries for electric vehicles for Ford Motor and Volkswagen, a U.S. trade panel ruled on Wednesday. But the decision imposes other limits on the company, SK Innovation, which has been embroiled in an intellectual property dispute with another Korean battery maker.

The U.S. International Trade Commission issued the decision in response to a complaint by LG Energy Solution, which had accused SK Innovation of stealing trade secrets. The dispute took on larger significance for the auto industry because SK had deals in place to supply batteries to Volkswagen, for cars it will make next year in Chattanooga, Tenn., and to Ford, for an electric version of its best-selling F-150 pickup truck.

Ford welcomed the decision, saying it “supports our plans to bring the all-electric Ford F-150 to market in mid-2022.”

LG had asserted that SK used stolen trade secrets to develop lithium-ion battery cells and packs for automobiles. It asked the commission to bar SK from importing the technology.

The commission concluded SK was using misappropriated intellectual property and ruled that the company should be barred from importing batteries, cells, or battery packs that use the disputed technology for 10 years. But it created an exception for the batteries SK plans to make at a plant in Georgia for Volkswagen for two years and Ford for four years.

“SKI’s total disregard of our warnings and intellectual property rights gave us no choice but to file this case, and we are grateful to the International Trade Commission for protecting our innovations and significant economic investments in the United States,” Jong Hyun Kim, chief executive of LG Energy Solution, said in a statement.

SK has planned to invest $2.6 billion to build that factory in Commerce, Ga., and eventually hire as many as 2,600 workers. The first phase of the factory is nearing completion.

The trade commission’s decision is not final. President Biden can choose to override it, a step that former President Barack Obama used in a dispute involving a smartphone dispute between Apple and Samsung.

In a statement, SK said it had “serious concerns about the commercial and operational implications of this decision” on the future of the plant it is building in Georgia.

The company said it would confer with Ford and Volkswagen and seek to discuss the ruling with the Biden administration.

“We also believe that the I.T.C. ruling could have a serious adverse impact on President Biden’s policies to combat climate change and expand the electrification of the U.S. auto fleet in coming years,” SK said.

Greg Gutfeld in 2007. The network describes “The Greg Gutfeld Show” as “a comedic hour featuring parodies on current events and signature monologues.”
Credit…Robert Stolarik for The New York Times

Fox News is shifting its 11 p.m. time slot to a new format for the network: late night.

“The Greg Gutfeld Show,” which the network describes as “a comedic hour featuring parodies on current events and signature monologues,” will begin airing on weeknights later this year, expanding from its current weekly slot on Saturday evenings. The libertarian anchor Mr. Gutfeld will also continue in his current role as a co-host of “The Five,” the network said on Wednesday.

In recent weeks, Fox News has changed the format of some of its most-viewed hours to right-wing talk, replacing previous programs that were focused on news reporting. Mr. Gutfeld’s program will bump “Fox News @ Night,” a daily newscast led by the anchor Shannon Bream, to midnight.

Last month, the network switched its 7 p.m. hour, which previously featured a newscast hosted by the anchor Martha MacCallum, to an opinion-focused show called “Fox News Primetime.” The new 7 p.m. program has featured a revolving group of pro-Trump hosts, including Maria Bartiromo and Brian Kilmeade. Ms. MacCallum now broadcasts her news report at 3 p.m.

Mr. Gutfeld started his career in magazines, editing Men’s Health, Stuff and Maxim UK. He hosted an overnight chat show on Fox News, “Red Eye,” from 2007 to 2015, which attracted a wide variety of guests including the writer Christopher Hitchens and some stars of New York’s gossip blog scene.

The federal budget deficit for January swelled to $163 billion as the government pumped more relief money into the economy to combat the pandemic, the Treasury Department said on Wednesday.

The mounting red ink reflects the toll the pandemic has taken on the U.S. economy in the last year and is a growing political concern as lawmakers rush to pass another relief package, which could cost nearly $2 trillion.

The shortfall was a record for January. For the fiscal year to date, the United States has amassed a record $736 billion deficit, as spending continues to rapidly outpace government revenue.

The deficits were sharp increases from a year earlier, when the government recorded a January shortfall of $33 billion and a deficit of $389 billion for the first four months of the fiscal year. A Treasury official said economic stimulus payments and unemployment insurance had contributed to the widening gap.

On Thursday, the Congressional Budget Office will release its 10-year economic outlook and budget projections. The figures are likely to highlight the dire fiscal situation facing the United States.

Republicans have been expressing growing alarm about debt and deficits since President Biden took office, shrugging off the big spending that took place under his Republican predecessor, President Donald J. Trump.

There has been a debate among left-leaning economists about how much stimulus is necessary, and how it should be targeted, to avoid letting the economy overheat.

The Biden administration and Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen have called on lawmakers to pass a robust package, arguing that the cost of doing too little to help struggling workers outweighs the threat of inflation, which can be contained.

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Fed Chair Urges Investments in the Work Force

Jerome H. Powell, chair of the Federal Reserve, said reaching maximum employment after the pandemic would require “a societywide commitment” in a speech to the Economic Club of New York on Wednesday.

In the near term, policies that bring the pandemic to an end as soon as possible are paramount. In addition, workers in households who struggle to find their place in the post-pandemic economy are likely to need continued support. The same is true for many small businesses that are likely to prosper again, once the pandemic is behind us. Given the number of people who have lost their jobs, and the likelihood that some will struggle to find work in the post-pandemic economy, achieving and sustaining maximum employment will require more than supportive monetary policy. It will require a society-wide commitment with contributions from across government and the private sector. The potential benefits of investing in our nation’s workforce are immense. Steady employment provides more than a regular paycheck. It also bestows a sense of purpose, improves mental health, increases life spans and benefits workers and their families. I’m confident that with our collective efforts across the government and the private sector, our nation will make sustained progress toward our national goal of maximum employment.

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Jerome H. Powell, chair of the Federal Reserve, said reaching maximum employment after the pandemic would require “a societywide commitment” in a speech to the Economic Club of New York on Wednesday.CreditCredit…Al Drago for The New York Times

As some prominent economists fret that the government might overdo its pandemic response and prompt prices to shoot higher, the nation’s top inflation fighter has a message: Policymakers should stay focused on restoring full employment.

“Given the number of people who have lost their jobs and the likelihood that some will struggle to find work in the post-pandemic economy, achieving and sustaining maximum employment will require more than supportive monetary policy,” Jerome H. Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve, said in speech prepared for delivery before The Economic Club of New York on Wednesday. “It will require a society-wide commitment.”

Mr. Powell called policies that bring the coronavirus pandemic to an end as soon as possible “paramount” and said that both workers and businesses who have had their livelihoods disrupted by the crisis “are likely to need continued support.”

The Fed chair noted that unemployment remains sharply elevated at about 10 percent, adjusted for improper classification and recent work force dropouts, compared with 3.5 percent last February. And he pointed out that virus fallout has been unevenly felt. Workers earning high wages have seen employment drop by just 4 percent, he said, while the decline for the bottom quartile has been “a staggering 17 percent.”

Separately, he noted, “Inflation has been much lower and more stable over the past three decades than in earlier times,” later adding that he would not expect a long-lived pickup in inflation coming out of the pandemic.

“Nothing in the economy is really permanent,” he said of inflation dynamics. “But it’s hard to make the case why they would evolve very suddenly.”

Economists have often seen high employment and low inflation as conflicting goals. Pursuing policies that foster strong demand and pull workers back into the labor market can also push up wages as businesses compete for talent and prompt companies to raise prices both because they need to pass along their rising costs and because eager consumers will accept such increases.

But the arithmetic has shifted in recent decades, as inflation remained mired below the Fed’s 2 percent goal even during long periods of very low joblessness.

Neera Tanden, President Biden’s nominee to head the Office of Management and Budget, faced a second day of tough questioning.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

An enduring rift within the Democratic Party spilled into public view on Tuesday as Senator Bernie Sanders, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, pressed Neera Tanden, President Biden’s nominee to head the Office of Management and Budget, over millions of dollars of corporate donations that the Center for American Progress received under her watch.

The tough line of questions was a rough patch for one of Mr. Biden’s cabinet picks and underscored the lingering tension between the Democratic Party’s progressive and moderate wings. Ms. Tanden, president of the liberal Center for American Progress think tank, served in the Clinton and Obama administrations and was a top aide to Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign.

“Now, Ms. Tanden, at a time when the wealthy and large corporations have extraordinary influence over the economic and political life of this country, I must tell you that I am concerned about the corporate donations the Center for American Progress has received under your leadership,” Mr. Sanders said in his opening statement. “Before I vote to confirm your nomination, it is important for this committee to know that those donations will not influence your decision making at O.M.B.”

Mr. Sanders cited a report that found that the center received at least $38 million from corporate America since 2014.

Mr. Sanders also questioned Ms. Tanden about her criticism of him and his allies.

“There were vicious attacks made against progressives, people who I have worked with, me personally,” Mr. Sanders said.

Ms. Tanden and Mr. Sanders have clashed since the 2016 election, with Mr. Sanders accusing Ms. Tanden in 2019 of “maligning my staff and supporters and belittling progressive ideas” after ThinkProgress, an independent editorial branch of Ms. Tanden’s think tank, criticized Mr. Sanders for the size of his income from writing a book.

On Tuesday, during her first confirmation hearing before the Senate homeland security committee, Ms. Tanden faced similar criticism — only from Republicans, who spent the first hour grilling her over her Twitter posts and asking why she deleted more than 1,000 posts shortly after the November election.

Senator Rob Portman of Ohio read aloud posts in which she called Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, “Moscow Mitch,” and said that “vampires have more heart than Ted Cruz,” a Republican senator from Texas.

Ms. Tanden apologized to that committee and said that she deleted some of her tweets because she regretted her tone.

At the Wednesday hearing, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the top Republican on the committee, said that he was not overly concerned with the donations that Ms. Tanden oversaw but brought up her criticism of both Republicans and Democrats.

“Her scorn was not limited to Republicans,” Mr. Graham said. “This is not the unifying pick that I was looking for in this position.”

Mr. Graham also leaned into the tensions between Ms. Tanden and Mr. Sanders, dusting off previous criticism that she leveled at the Democratic Socialist from Vermont, including comments suggesting that Russia tried to help the Sanders campaign in 2016.

In her opening statement on Wednesday, Ms. Tanden insisted that she would work in a bipartisan fashion if confirmed. She noted that some of her abrasive language in the past was because of her role as a political activist and she apologized for offending people with her comments on social media.

“I apologize to people either on the left or right who are hurt by what I said,” Ms. Tanden said.

Michelle Obama will go before the camera for “Waffles + Mochi,” a Netflix show.
Credit…Netflix

Michelle Obama will be the star of a children’s cooking show.

Netflix announced this week that Mrs. Obama will be featured alongside a pair of puppets in a series called “Waffles + Mochi.” The 10-episode series makes its debut March 16.

The series is the latest project from Mrs. Obama and Barack Obama’s production company, Higher Ground Productions. The Obamas, who signed a deal with Netflix in 2018, have so far produced three documentary films for the streaming service. Mrs. Obama was the centerpiece of “Becoming,” a 2020 documentary that followed her on her book tour after her memoir of the same title was published.

Last week, the Obamas announced that they had several scripted projects in development for Netflix, including an adaptation of “Exit West,” a critically adored 2017 novel about refugees, and an animated series based on a Michael Lewis book.

In the cooking show, Mrs. Obama will play a supermarket owner who helps two puppet pals, Waffles and Mochi, fulfill their dream of becoming chefs. Mrs. Obama has long promoted health and nutrition, and the Obamas said when they signed with Netflix that they would create a children’s show.

“Waffles + Mochi” has been in development for nearly two years. In 2019, Netflix announced an earlier version of the show, “Listen To Your Vegetables & Eat Your Parents.” The production team for “Waffles + Mochi” includes Erika Thormahlen, a writer and actress, and Jeremy Konner, a producer of Comedy Central’s “Drunk History.”

Copper sheathing used in undersea cables, in 2018. The metal is seen as good predictor for the direction of the global economy.
Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times
  • The S&P 500 was unchanged on Wednesday while the Dow Jones industrial average climbed slightly to reach another record.

  • General Motors reported $6.4 billion profit for 2020, as brisk sales of pickup trucks and sport-utility vehicles in the fall offset the pandemic disruptions in the spring. Its shares fell more than 2 percent, however.

  • Twitter’s shares climbed 13 percent after the company said on Tuesday that its revenue rose 28 percent in the fourth quarter compared with the previous year.

  • Lyft jumped 5 percent after the company’s fourth-quarter revenue — although down sharply from a year ago — was higher than the previous period.

  • Commodities prices rose to multiyear highs as traders anticipated stronger demand for raw materials to aid the economic recovery. West Texas Intermediate futures, the U.S. crude benchmark, gained as much as 0.65 percent to $58.74 a barrel, the highest level since April 2019 before settling lower. Brent prices climbed to as high as $61.50 a barrel, the highest since July 2019.

  • Copper prices, which have been climbing for 10 straight months, approached an eight-year high in London trading. The metal is seen as good predictor for the direction of the global economy given its broad usage, especially for the wiring for power transmission.

“Part of how United will combat global warming is embracing emerging technologies that decarbonize air travel,” said Scott Kirby, the chief executive of United Airlines.
Credit…Chris Helgren/Reuters

United Airlines plans to invest in and buy as many as 200 aircraft from Archer Aviation, an electric air taxi start-up that announced plans on Wednesday to go public, in a deal that Archer said valued it at about $3.8 billion.

“Part of how United will combat global warming is embracing emerging technologies that decarbonize air travel,” United’s chief executive, Scott Kirby, said in a statement on Wednesday. “By working with Archer, United is showing the aviation industry that now is the time to embrace cleaner, more efficient modes of transportation.”

United is investing about $20 million in Archer, and an additional $5 million will come from Mesa Airlines, which operates regional flights for United and others. The airline’s tentative aircraft order is valued at up to $1 billion, Archer said in a statement. United said it would only purchase the aircraft once they were available and had met its operating and business requirements.

The aircraft, which can travel at speeds of up to 150 miles an hour for up to 60 miles, would be used within the next five years to let United’s customers commute in dense urban areas or quickly reach the airline’s airport hubs, United said. The aircraft are set to debut this year, according to Archer, which is based in California.

The news follows United’s announcement late last year that it plans to become carbon-neutral by 2050, in part by investing in a “direct air capture” plant in Texas that will remove carbon dioxide from the sky and inject it underground.

Archer said it planned to go public via a sale to a blank-check company, also known as a special purpose acquisition company. The vehicle, Atlas Crest Investment, is an affiliate of the investment bank Moelis & Company. Ken Moelis, the bank’s founder, is investing in the deal alongside other senior bankers and Walmart’s former e-commerce chief, Marc Lore, by contributing to the $600 million “private investment in public equity.” Other investors include the newly formed carmaker Stellantis.

Moelis leaned on its bankers, client relationships and external consultants to conduct the due diligence required for investing in new airline technology and SPACs, Mr. Moelis said in an interview.

“We had 35, 40 people on this — and we attacked this like venture growth would or anybody else,” Mr Moelis said. “And we did it fast, too.”

United Airlines is a client of Moelis, and the bank expects that Archer will be as well.

The company expects to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker ACHR.

  • Aunt Jemima formally rebranded itself on Tuesday as the Pearl Milling Company, moving one step closer to permanently abandoning the breakfast product line’s likeness that critics had long said perpetuated a racist stereotype for more than a century. The new name comes from the milling company in St. Joseph, Mo., that pioneered the self-rising pancake mix that became known as Aunt Jemima.

  • Heineken, the big brewer based in Amsterdam, said on Wednesday it would lay off 8,000 workers, or almost 10 percent of its work force, as it confronts a steep fall in beer sales to restaurants and bars closed because of the pandemic. The company reported an 18 percent drop in net revenue for 2020, and a 79 percent fall in operating profit. Dolf van den Brink, the chief executive, called it a “year of unprecedented disruption and transition.”

  • Lyft said on Tuesday that revenue for the fourth quarter of 2020 was $570 million, a 44 percent decline from the year before but in line with Wall Street expectations. Losses increased 22 percent, to $458.2 million. Revenue for 2020 was down 35 percent, to $2.4 billion.

  • Twitter said on Tuesday that its revenue in the fourth quarter last year was $1.29 billion, a 28 percent increase from the previous year and slightly above Wall Street expectations. Profit for the quarter was $222 million, bolstered by a turnaround in income after a significant drop in ad spending earlier in 2020. The company lost $1.14 billion for the year.