AmEx adds cash back to prepaid debit cards
American Express is adding cash back, a popular credit card feature, to its prepaid debit cards as it seeks users beyond its traditional customers. The company has long relied on the corporate traveler and the well-to-do, but increased competition has forced it to look at new customers. Prepaid cards, which appeal to lower-income Americans and people who don't have traditional bank accounts, are a small and growing business. On Wednesday, AmEx will release a new Serve card that will give users 1 percent cash back on all purchases. It's the first time a prepaid debit card has offered cash back for every buy. Some prepaid cards offer cash back at certain retailers. The monthly fee will be $5.95, so you have to spend roughly $600 a month to break even on the card.
Coca-Cola investing in juice maker Suja
Coca-Cola Co., which announced an investment in organic-juice maker Suja Life on Wednesday, has the option to acquire the company outright within about three years, Bloomberg News reported. For now, Coca-Cola and Goldman Sachs Group Inc.'s merchant-banking division are investing $150 million in Suja, purchasing just under 50 percent of the company, Bloomberg said, citing anonymous sources familiar with the deal. That would value the juice start-up at about $300 million. As part of the transaction, Coca-Cola will expand Suja's distribution and provide funds to build a new factory. The move follows Coca-Cola's pattern of investing in companies with more growth potential, helping offset a sluggish soda business.
Weather Channel said to be looking at sale
The owners of the Weather Channel have hired Morgan Stanley and PJT Partners Inc to explore a sale, Bloomberg News reported, citing people familiar with the matter. The Weather Co., which began weighing a sale last year, is considering selling only its digital business, which has a much higher value than the cable network, the people told Bloomberg. The businesses are valued by the owners at more than $3 billion, with most of that tied to the digital operations, according to the report. An investor group led by NBCUniversal and private equity firms Bain Capital and the Blackstone Group took the Weather Channel private for $3.5 billion in 2008.
Costco faces accusations over farmed shrimp
Costco Wholesale was sued for selling farmed shrimp from Thailand, where slave labor and human trafficking in the fishing industry are widespread, and allegedly misleading U.S. consumers about it. A California woman filed what may be the first lawsuit for such liability tied to the Thai fishing industry in San Francisco federal court. She cited state laws that bar companies from making false claims about illegal conduct in their supply chain, including human rights violations. Issaquah, Wash.-based Costco's purchases of Thailand's farmed prawns, which are fed a diet of cheap fish caught at sea with unpaid, forced labor, helps prop up an industry whose practices are ignored by local authorities, according to the complaint. A Costco spokesman didn't immediately return a call seeking comment.
Vietnam follows China, devalues currency
Vietnam allowed its currency to weaken by at least 1 percent after the devaluation of the Chinese yuan and the expectation of a possible U.S interest rate hike. The central bank-set reference rate weakened to 21,890 dong to the U.S. dollar and the trading band within which the dong can be traded was widened to 3 percent from 2 percent, the State Bank of Vietnam said. "Following the strong devaluation of the Chinese yuan, domestic market sentiment is very much concerned with the negative impact of a United States Federal Reserve interest rate increase," the central bank said in a statement. It said the bank was widening the trading band "in order to proactively lead the market and pre-empt negative impacts from the possible Fed rate increase."
Audi planning long-range electric SUV
German carmaker Audi says it's planning to unveil an electric sport SUV concept with a range of over 310 miles — well beyond the range of rival carmaker Tesla's Model S and soon-to-launch Model X. Audi said in a statement its as-yet unnamed electric SUV will begin production in 2018. It will unveil the vehicle at the upcoming Frankfurt Auto Show, which opens to the media Sept. 15. Tesla's highly anticipated new Model X SUV, the company's third vehicle, will begin shipping in a few weeks. Audi said its electric SUV will feature three electric motors powered by a large lithium-ion battery.
Few bids offered for Gulf of Mexico oil lease
The smallest oil lease sale ever in the western Gulf of Mexico and one of the smallest in the entire Gulf brought only five bidders, with low oil prices limiting interest in the prospects. Most seats in a New Orleans meeting room were empty as a federal energy official read the 33 bids for tracts off the Texas coast. Each tract drew a single bid, for a total of $22.7 million. Not all bids wind up as leases: over the years, nearly 3 percent of all bids have been rejected or withdrawn. Officials had expected interest to be down from last year because oil prices are so low, said Mike Celata, acting regional director for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.