Update on the latest in business:

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Technology companies, retailers lead U.S. stocks higher

NEW YORK (AP) — Technology companies and retailers have led U.S. stocks higher, adding to last week’s big gains.

Microsoft and Amazon rose. Strong earnings helped push Botox maker Allergan higher. Communications and health care companies helped round out some of the top gainers.

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Energy companies, including Exxon Mobil, lagged the market as oil prices edged lower. Bank of America and Citigroup fell along with other banks.

The gains follow a rally last week. Optimism gave way to caution late in the week as the virus outbreak originating in China continues to threaten the world’s economy.

CHINESE HACKERS-EQUIFAX

US charges 4 Chinese military members in Equifax breach

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department says four Chinese military hackers have been charged with breaking into the computer networks of the Equifax credit reporting agency and stealing the personal information of tens of millions of Americans.

Law enforcement officials say the four are also accused of stealing the company’s trade secrets.

The defendants are all members of the People’s Liberation Army, an arm of the Chinese military.

The 2017 breach affected roughly 145 million people, with the hackers successfully stealing names, Social Security numbers and other personal information stored in the company’s databases.

XEROX-HP

Xerox says it will offer $35B for HP after rejections

NEW YORK (AP) — Xerox says it will raise its offer for computer and printer maker HP to nearly $35 billion after a lower bid was rejected.

Xerox says it plans to make the offer about March 2. It will consist of $24 per HP share in cash and Xerox stock.

In November, HP rejected a roughly $33.5 billion buyout offer from Xerox, saying that the bid undervalued HP.

Xerox is best known for its copying machines. Both companies have struggled as the demand for printed documents and ink have waned, and both are cutting costs.

HP did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

VOLVO-GEELY

Volvo Cars and owner Geely consider merger deal

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Swedish automaker Volvo Cars and its owner Chinese automaker Geely Holding say they are considering combining their businesses to create what they call “a strong global group” that “would accelerate financial and technological synergies between the two companies.”

The companies say the combined group would be listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, but the companies’ distinct identities would be preserved.

The companies say they’ll create a joint working group to prepare a proposal for their respective boards. A deal would be subject to the approval by the boards and shareholders of Geely and Volvo Cars, as well as by regulators.

Geely has owned Volvo since 2010.

EDGEWELL-HARRY’S

Schick owner Edgewell drops $1.37B buyout deal for Harry’s

SHELTON, Conn. (AP) — The owner of Schick is ending its $1.37 billion acquisition deal for upstart shaving company Harry’s shortly after the Federal Trade Commission sued to block the sale.

Edgewell Personal Care Co. says that Harry’s Inc. has said it will pursue litigation, but Edgewell believes such litigation has no merit.

Edgewell says it’s moving forward as a standalone company.

Federal trade regulators had argued that a combination of Edgewell and Harry’s would hurt competition.

Edgewell’s Schick is the No. 2 razor maker in the U.S., behind Gillette. Both brands were forced to slash prices and overhaul their marketing strategies in recent years in response to the rise of Harry’s and rival Dollar Shave Club, which both started as direct-to-consumer digital brands.

MALL DEAL

Simon Property buying majority stake in Taubman

UNDATED (AP) — The Simon Property Group will buy mall operator Taubman Realty in a deal valued at around $3.6 billion as those properties continue to struggle along with their retail tenants.

Simon Property Group Inc. says its operating partnership, Simon Property Group, LP, will buy all of Taubman stock for $52.50 per share. The Taubman family will sell about one-third of its ownership stake at the transaction price and remain a 20% partner in Taubman Realty Group LP.

Taubman Realty owns, manages or leases 26 shopping centers in the U.S. and Asia, including The Mall at Short Hills in New Jersey, and Waterside Shops in Naples, Florida.

The deal is expected to close by the middle of the year. It still needs approval from two-thirds of the outstanding Taubman voting stock and a majority of outstanding Taubman voting stock not held by the Taubman family.

AMAZON-PENTAGON-WAR CLOUD

Amazon wants to depose Trump over loss of military contract

WASHINGTON (AP) — Amazon wants to depose President Donald Trump over the tech company’s losing bid for a $10 billion military contract.

The Pentagon awarded the cloud computing project to Microsoft in October. Amazon later sued, arguing that Trump’s interference and bias against the company harmed Amazon’s chances of winning the contract.

The company said in a federal court filing today that Trump has a “well-documented personal animus towards” Amazon, its CEO Jeff Bezos and The Washington Post, which Bezos owns. Amazon says that Trump is the only person who can testify about the “totality of his conversations and the overall message he conveyed” about the bidding process.

Amazon is also asking to depose Defense Secretary Mark Esper, former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and other government officials. The Pentagon didn’t immediately return an emailed request for comment today.

VAPING LAWSUIT-PENNSYLVANIA

Pennsylvania sues Juul over marketing e-cigarettes to teens

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — The Pennsylvania attorney general’s office is suing electronic cigarette manufacturer Juul over how its products are marketed and sold to teenagers.

The office on Monday filed a complaint in Philadelphia court, seeking an injunction to halt its e-cigarette sales in Pennsylvania force it to dramatically change business practices. The suit maintains nearly a quarter of high school students in Pennsylvania report using e-cigarettes.

A Juul Labs Inc. spokesman says the company hasn’t reviewed the complaint but wants to focus on combating underage use and converting adult smokers from traditional cigarettes.

Similar lawsuits have been filed in other states, including New York, Minnesota and California.

MICHAEL-AVENATTI-NIKE

Avenatti’s request to limit his testimony rejected by judge

NEW YORK (AP) — A judge has dealt a blow to California attorney Michael Avenatti’s effort to limit his testimony if he takes the witness stand at his extortion trial.

Avenatti’s lawyers had asked a federal judge to exclude references to allegations that he defrauded clients.

The judge said today that prior instances of lies and deceit by Avenatti were highly relevant and would be allowed.

Avenatti faces two fraud trials later this year. In one case, he is charged in New York with defrauding former client porn star Stormy Daniels of book proceeds. In another case in Los Angeles, he is charged with defrauding clients of millions of dollars. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges. 

CHINA-OUTBREAK-BUSINESS IMPACT

Sony, Amazon, others drop out of big tech show over virus

LONDON (AP) — Sony, Amazon and Japan’s NTT DoCoMo are the latest companies to pull out of a major European technology show over virus fears.

Sony and NTT DoCoMo said Monday they’re scrapping appearances at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, later this month. Sony will instead launch its latest devices through its YouTube channel on Feb. 24, the first day of the show.

Amazon also said its withdrawing over continued concerns about the coronavirus. Ericsson, LG and Nvidia have also pulled out.

The show organizers said Sunday they’re “moving ahead as planned” with the event and outlined additional health and safety measures. 

BRITAIN-BORIS JOHNSON’S BRIDGE

A bridge too far? UK looks at linking Scotland, N Ireland

LONDON (AP) — The British government says it is seriously studying the feasibility of a bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland, an audacious idea that has been floated by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Johnson’s spokesman, James Slack, said Monday that “a range of officials” were studying the proposal.

Johnson has promised to invest in big infrastructure projects to better connect parts of the U.K.

But engineers say spanning at least 12 miles, or 19 kilometers, of the deep and stormy Irish Sea would be difficult.  The water is up to 1,000 feet, or 300 meters, deep and the sea bed holds thousands of unexploded bombs dumped by Britain’s defense ministry after World War II.

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