BNSF gets OK to use drones to inspect rails
BNSF Railway Co., owned by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, will be among the first companies to operate a commercial drone over hundreds of miles in a U.S. research program to test the safety of pilotless flights. A camera-equipped drone will fly as far as 400 miles along tracks in rural areas to inspect rails, BNSF said. The Federal Aviation Administration also chose CNN and Precision Hawk USA to make flights beyond the visual line of sight of an operator in unpopulated areas, a practice that is currently banned. The use of drones "increases the frequency of inspection. We have some very remote areas," Gary Grissum, BNSF's assistant vice president of telecommunications, said in an interview. "We're looking to be able to detect very small defaults in the rail."
New Whole Foods chain aimed at the young
Whole Foods is planning to open a new chain of stores that courts millennials with lower prices as it faces intensifying competition as a purveyor of organic and natural products. The company said Wednesday it's building a team to focus exclusively on the new concept and that it's already negotiating leases. Stores are expected to start opening next year, followed by a "fairly rapid expansion," it said. Walter Robb, co-CEO of Whole Foods, said the stores will also appeal to younger customers with a "modern, streamlined design, innovative technology and a curated selection." A name for the new chain wasn't disclosed.
New brewing system hurts Keurig earnings
Keurig Green Mountain Inc. cut its full-year sales and profit forecasts as the company struggles to convince consumers to take up its new Keurig 2.0 brewing system, sending its shares sharply lower in extended trading. Sales of Keurig's brewers have slowed in the past two quarters due to high prices of the 2.0 brewing system, poor reviews and confusion over whether the new machine could still brew certain brands. Shares of the company, which also reported lower-than-expected second-quarter profit and sales, fell as much as 19 percent in extended trading. Chief Executive Brian Kelley said consumers were using unlicensed pods in its first-generation machine. Those pods weren't compatible with the 2.0 system.
Zynga to cut 18% of company's workforce
Zynga founder Mark Pincus is cutting 18 percent of the casual-games company's workforce, less than a month after retaking the reins as chief executive. The firings, amounting to 364 jobs, are part of a cost-reduction plan that will save $100 million annually, the company said in a statement. Pincus, who replaced CEO Don Mattrick last month, is also cutting back on outside services and reducing central functions as he works to develop hit titles for mobile devices, he said in an interview. The job cuts will mostly affect corporate and central-services roles, Pincus said. The company, known for FarmVille and Words With Friends, is focusing on mobile games in categories including casino and racing.
U.S. productivity fell 1.9% in first quarter
U.S. worker productivity declined in the first three months of the year as labor costs jumped, reflecting a slowdown in growth. The Labor Department said that productivity, which is the amount of output per hour of work, fell at 1.9 percent rate in the first quarter. Productivity dropped at a 2.1 percent rate in the final three months of 2014. Labor costs surged at a 5 percent rate in the first quarter, after having increased 4.2 percent in the fourth quarter. Falling productivity coupled with higher labor costs are usually a negative for the economy, since it implies additional expenses without improvements in worker efficiency.
Hiring slowed further last month, ADP says
U.S. companies hired in April at the slowest pace in nearly a year and a half, a private survey found, as the strong dollar dragged down overseas sales and energy companies cut back on spending in the face of lower oil prices. Payroll processor ADP said that businesses added just 169,000 jobs in April, down from 175,000 in the previous month. That was the fewest since January 2014. March's total was revised down from 189,000. The weak showing could raise fears that the economy is slipping into a period of sluggish growth. April's jobs report will be released Friday, and economists forecast hiring rebounded to 220,000 last month.
Ice cream company finds listeria source
Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams said it has traced the source of listeria in its Ohio production facility to a pint-filling machine. CEO John Lowe said in a statement that the company will never be sure how the bacteria got into the machine, which filled a portion of the pints for retail sales. He said efforts continue to clean the Columbus facility. Lowe says the company estimates it will spend about $200,000 on changes.
Ex-MillerCoors exec charged with fraud
U.S. authorities announced charges against a former MillerCoors executive and seven others for engaging in a scheme to defraud the brewing company of at least $7 million. David Colletti, a former MillerCoors vice president, was charged in an indictment filed in federal court in Chicago with mail and wire fraud for his role in an alleged scheme that caused the company to be falsely billed for promotional events and marketing services. MillerCoors was not identified by name in the charging documents. But the company had previously sued Colletti and said last year that it had referred the matter to federal authorities.