Update on the latest in business:

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asian shares slide on fears virus’ spread may be unstoppable

TOKYO (AP) — Asian shares fell today on growing fears the spread of the coronavirus may be unstoppable, hurting global growth considerably.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei closed 0.8% lower, while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 dipped 2.3%. South Korea’s Kospi lost 1.0%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng declined 0.8%. The Shanghai Composite fell 0.8%.

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Shares fell in Taiwan and most of Southeast Asia but rose in Malaysia following recent losses due to political turmoil.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 has lost 7.6% in the last four days since hitting a record high last Wednesday. That’s the benchmark index’s worst such stretch since the end of 2018, resulting in $2.14 trillion in losses, according to S&P Global. Tuesday also marked the first back-to-back 3% losses for the index since the summer of 2015.

DISNEY-NEW CEO

Disney names new CEO to replace Bob Iger immediately

NEW YORK (AP) — Disney has named Bob Chapek as its new CEO. Chapek most recently was chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products.

On Tuesday, Walt Disney Co. made a surprise announcement that Bob Iger (EYE’-gur) was stepping down as CEO immediately. Iger had steered the company through successful purchases of Star Wars, Marvel and Fox’s entertainment businesses.

He’ll remain executive chairman through Dec. 2021, the end of his contract.

JAPAN-PANASONIC-TESLA

Reports: Panasonic, Tesla to scrap solar panels partnership

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese electronics maker Panasonic has declined to comment on reports that it is planning to end its partnership with Tesla to produce solar panels at a factory in New York state.

The Japanese business daily Nikkei and other media report, citing unnamed sources, that Panasonic is preparing to withdraw from the solar cell partnership, though it would continue making batteries for Tesla’s electric vehicles.

Panasonic and Tesla have not commented.

The two companies’ agreement to work on solar energy was announced in 2016. They were to collaborate on production of photovoltaic cells and modules at Panasonic’s facility in Buffalo, New York. Modules are groups of battery cells joined together.

CALIFORNIA WILDFIRES-UTILITY

PG&E CEO assures utility’s safety issues are being fixed

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — PG&E Corp. CEO Bill Johnson blamed negligence by the company’s past management for a cascade of catastrophes that killed nearly 140 people as he tried to persuade California regulators Tuesday that he is steering the utility to make safety its top priority.

Johnson, who was brought in to lead the company 10 months ago, delivered his remarks as the first witness in critical California Public Utilities Commission hearings that will help shape Pacific Gas & Electric as it tries to emerge from its second bankruptcy in less than 20 years.

SAMSUNG-DATA LEAK

Samsung says it leaked data on handful of UK customers

UNDATED (AP) — Samsung says a “technical error” caused its website to display other customers’ personal information.

The technology company said Tuesday that the error affected only its U.K. website at http://samsung.com/UK and affected fewer than 150 customers.

People who logged on were able to see someone else’s name, phone number, address, email address and previous orders. Samsung said it did not leak card details. The South Korean company is the world’s largest cellphone maker and a massive producer of electronics including chips and TVs.

MICROSOFT-DIGITAL CURRENCY THEFT

Jury convicts ex-Microsoft worker in digital currency scheme

SEATTLE (AP) — A jury in Seattle has convicted a former Microsoft worker of wire fraud and other charges in what prosecutors described as a scheme to steal $10 million in digital currency.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office says 25-year-old Ukrainian citizen Volodymyr Kvashuk helped test Microsoft’s online retail sales platform. He was accused of stealing digital currency such as gift cards that could be redeemed for Microsoft products, then reselling them on the internet and using the proceeds to buy a $160,000 Tesla vehicle and a $1.7 million lakefront home.

He faces up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced by U.S. District Judge James L. Robart in June.

VIRGIN FALACTIC

Virgin Galactic reports high interest in its space flights

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Virgin Galactic has received nearly 8,000 online reservations of interest since its first successful test flight into space 14 months ago.

The company is nearing commercial operation and preparing to reopen ticket sales. Virgin Galactic already had more than 600 firm reservations that were taken from customers in 60 countries until the December 2018 flight, when it closed down ticket sales.

The company says that today, it will begin a process called “One Small Step” that will allow those online registrants who are serious about becoming passenger astronauts to register online for a firm reservation by paying a fully refundable deposit of $1,000. The initial seats were sold at $250,000 apiece.

HONG KONG-ECONOMY

Hong Kong plans handouts, tax cuts to counter economic woes

HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong’s government is proposing a nearly $1,300 cash handout for each resident over 18 years old to help alleviate hardships brought on by the spreading viral outbreak and prolonged political protests.

The subsidy was among a slew of emergency measures in a budget presented to the city’s legislature today by Financial Secretary Paul Chan.

The downturn in tourism and business activity from the virus outbreak has compounded the troubles brought on by months of often violent protests last year. The financial center is deploying its more than 1 trillion Hong Kong dollars ($140 billion) in reserves to help counter the economic contraction and shore up public support for the government.

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