Monday's economy & business stories

Jul 19, 2021 - Health

Hospitals face higher proposed penalties for not disclosing prices

Hospitals may face stiffer penalties for not showing their prices. Photo: Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The federal government has proposed raising penalties on hospitals that do not publish prices they negotiate with private health insurers.

Why it matters: Many hospitals were not complying with the new regulation that required them to post prices for at least 300 "shoppable" services, in part because the maximum penalty was only $110,000 per year. The federal government is proposing to raise the maximum penalty to $2 million per year for the largest hospitals.

The recession officially ended in April 2020

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The U.S. economic recession triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic officially ended in April 2020, the National Bureau of Economic Research said Monday.

By the numbers: The NBER initially said the recession brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic began in February 2020, making this is the shortest recession on record.

Biden pushes back on inflation fears

President Biden walking to Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, July 16. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

"Our experts believe and the data shows that most of the price increases we've seen were expected and are expected to be temporary," President Biden said at the White House Monday, pushing back against fears of persistent inflation.

Why it matters: The White House, which has argued that inflation issues are short term, is concerned that fears of rising prices could derail Biden's legislative agenda, which includes massive spending packages.

Jul 19, 2021 - Economy & Business

CNN to hire hundreds of journalists for new streaming service CNN+


CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker on Monday said the company plans to launch its new streaming service called CNN+ in the first quarter of 2022, sources on the company's editorial call tell Axios. The company publicly announced the news minutes later with more detail.

Why it matters: CNN is committing to building out a standalone streaming news operation, after a few failed attempts at creating a standalone streaming app with original content, most notably CNN Pipeline.

Bowlero to go public at $2.6 billion

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Bowlero, which has consolidated and upgraded one of America's sleepiest sports industries, is expected to go public later this quarter at a $2.6 billion valuation, via a SPAC led by former World Wrestling Entertainment co-presidents Michelle Wilson and George Barrios.

The big picture: The company says it has 321 bowling centers in North America, which is eight times more than its next-closest rival, and often owns its own real estate. Its assets also include the Professional Bowlers Association.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Jul 19, 2021 - Economy & Business

Bill Ackman's SPAC walks away from Universal Music Group deal

Pershing Square Tontine (NYSE:PSTH), the record-breaking SPAC formed by Bill Ackman, walked away from its agreement to buy a 10% stake in Universal Music Group from Vivendi at a $40 billion enterprise value.

Why it's the BFD: Ackman was too clever by half, raising the hackles of both regulators and shareholders in his SPAC (whose value was down more than 17% since the Universal announcement). Walking away also means the end of Tontine's plans to form what it called a SPARC, or special purpose acquisition rights company, seeded with cash that wasn't going to Universal and intended to buy another company.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jul 19, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Generate Capital unveils one of the largest single private sustainability investments

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Generate Capital, a sustainable infrastructure finance and development firm, this morning announced a $2 billion fundraise from major institutional investors.

Why it matters: It's a lot of money — company representatives are calling it among the largest single private investments in sustainability.

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
Jul 19, 2021 - Economy & Business

LeBron James' storytelling future with SpringHill Company

Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer/WireImage via Getty Images

LeBron James' media venture, SpringHill Company, is exploring a possible sale in the $750 million range, per The Information (subscription) — and Nike is among the potential suitors.

Between the lines: SpringHill has 120 employees and three businesses: Springhill Entertainment (production company), Uninterrupted (athlete empowerment brand) and The Robot Co. (marketing agency).

Bank of America's bitcoin thaw

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Bank of America may be loosening its stance on bitcoin.

Driving the news: Bank of America has approved the trading of cash-settled bitcoin futures for some clients, Coindesk’s Will Canny and Tanzeel Akhtar report.

Consumers complain about high prices, but buy anyway

Data: University of Michigan; Chart: Axios Visuals

Shoppers are outraged by how expensive some stuff is getting.

Why it matters: Consumer sentiment is important because it’s generally correlated with spending. Complaints about prices today and concerns about inflation down the road have caused the recovery in sentiment to stall.

Don't expect stocked clearance sections as the economy reopens

Data: Census Bureau; Chart: Axios Visuals

Shoppers who are upset about the rising prices of goods won't find much solace in discount bins and sale racks.

Driving the news: Shortages have plagued almost every industry, with surging demand outpacing supply as the economy reopens.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Jul 19, 2021 - Economy & Business

Robinhood sets terms for its IPO

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

No-fee trading app Robinhood on Monday disclosed details for its upcoming IPO, with plans to raise around $2.2 billion at a $33 billion valuation.

Why it matters: This is expected to be one of the largest and most closely-watched IPOs on 2021, as the company's fortunes are closely correlated to the stock-trading among young, retail investors.

Go deeper: Robinhood IPO filing caps stunning rebound

Updated Jul 19, 2021 - Economy & Business

Olympics to miss the mark for many sponsors

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The decision to move forward with the Olympics has put sponsors in a tricky position because the games are no longer the predictable investment that they were pre-pandemic.

The latest: Toyota — one of the Olympics' top sponsors — announced Monday that it will not be airing TV commercials in Japan related to the Games. Executives for Japan’s biggest automaker will also not be attending Friday's opening ceremony.

Jul 19, 2021 - Economy & Business

Digital smart zones help manage crowded urban streets

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Exploding demand for curb space in urban areas has inspired new technologies like "digital smart zones" that help cities manage those narrow but increasingly valuable tracts of real estate.

Why it matters: Allowing delivery trucks or DoorDash drivers, for example, to automatically reserve the precise chunk of concrete they need — two minutes from now or for the next two hours — helps keep traffic moving and sidewalks clear.

Jul 19, 2021 - Economy & Business

The pandemic-induced renaissance of malls

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

For the last decade or so, malls have been dying. Surprisingly, the pandemic may save them.

The big picture: A year and a half of isolation has reignited a desire to gather in public spaces — and spruced-up, futuristic malls could make billions off of a cooped-up America.

Jul 19, 2021 - Technology
Column / Tech Agenda

Facial recognition surges in retail stores

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Face-recognition tech is coming to a store near you, if it's not there already, and that's sparking a new wave of opposition.

Why it matters: The systems can scan or store facial images of both shoppers and workers. Their use accelerated during the pandemic as retailers looked for ways to prevent fraud, track foot traffic with fewer employees, and offer contactless payments at a time when consumers were wary of interacting with others.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Jul 19, 2021 - Economy & Business

How a pandemic-driven shake-up on life-work balance will change cities

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

After nearly a year and a half of COVID-19, Americans are looking to prioritize living and playing over work in the post-pandemic age.

The big picture: What Americans choose to focus on will have downstream impacts on where they choose to live, how they want to work and what they'll want to spend money on. Cities that were built around supporting work first and foremost will need to adjust.

Zoom buying Five9 in all-stock deal valued at $14.7 billion

Zoom founder Eric Yuan (C) and his team in New York City in 2019. Photo: Kena Betancur/Getty Images

Zoom announced Sunday it has signed an agreement to acquire cloud contact center software provider Five9 in an all-stock transaction valuing the company at $14.7 billion.

Why it matters: This is Zoom's first billion-dollar acquisition and the second-biggest American tech deal this year, after Microsoft's planned $16 billion purchase of Nuance Communications, per CNBC.