|Bid||22.36 x 1000|
|Ask||22.37 x 1100|
|Day's range||20.74 - 21.96|
|52-week range||14.33 - 41.90|
|Beta (5Y monthly)||1.30|
|PE ratio (TTM)||4.68|
|Earnings date||05 May 2020|
|Forward dividend & yield||1.52 (6.74%)|
|Ex-dividend date||04 Mar 2020|
|1y target est||40.00|
President Donald Trump signed Friday a presidential directive ordering GM to produce ventilators and to prioritize federal contracts, just hours after the automaker announced plans to manufacture the critical medical equipment needed for patients suffering from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The order, made under the Defense Production Act, marks a sudden reversal by Trump, who has touted the efforts by GM and other manufacturers to try to ramp up production of ventilators and personal protective gear that is in short supply as COVID-19 cases continue to rise. The order came amid a dispute with GM over a contract to produce the ventilators.
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump said a quarantine may be imposed on metropolitan New York, the disease’s U.S. epicenter. The U.K. had its deadliest 24 hours. Spain had record fatalities for a second straight day.Michigan may become the next U.S. hotspot as Trump approved a disaster declaration for the state.Russia is closing its borders after a sharp rise in cases over a week, Sweden is conducting random testing in Stockholm and Japan is planning an “unprecedented” stimulus.Key Developments:Cases top 621,000; 28,600 dead, 135,000 recovered: Johns HopkinsSpain reports 832 deaths, exceeding Friday’s recordU.K. fatalities jump 34% in one dayAbbott gets emergency approval for five-minute testTrump signs $2.2 trillion aid packageJapan plans supplementary budget, cash handoutsSubscribe to a daily update on the virus from Bloomberg’s Prognosis team here.Click VRUS on the terminal for news and data on the coronavirus and here for maps and charts. For analysis of the impact from Bloomberg Economics, click here. For BNEF’s view of the impact on energy, click here.U.S. Mulls Metro NYC Quarantine (12:23 p.m. NY)President Trump said he’s considering an enforced quarantine in areas of New York and New Jersey to curb the outbreak.Trump told reporters he had spoken with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo before departing the White House to send off a Navy hospital ship bound for New York City from Norfolk, Virginia.The president said he’d rather not impose such a quarantine but that the country may need it. Asked about his ambition to urge many Americans to return to work by the Easter holiday on April 12, Trump said “we’ll see what happens.”New York and New Jersey have more than half the U.S. Covid-19 cases.Northern Italy Deaths Near 6,000 (12:10 p.m. NY)Deaths in Italy’s northern Lombardy region rose by 542 to 5,944, according to a person familiar with the matter. New cases in the area around Milan rose by 2,117 to 39,415, the person said, asking not to be named because Lombardy’s data aren’t public.Lombardy has been at the epicenter of Italy’s outbreak, which is the worst in Europe with more than 86,000 cases. The region accounts for almost half of all cases in Italy.Michigan Cases Top U.S. Rate (12:05 p.m. NY)Michigan is becoming the next U.S. coronavirus hotspot, registering new cases at more than triple the national rate. The state had 3,657 cases as of Friday -- versus zero just over two weeks ago -- and now ranks fifth in the nation. At least 92 people have died.Impoverished Detroit and surrounding Wayne County made up half the state total. Suburban Oakland County, home for thousands of white-collar auto jobs, had 23% of cases.Other Midwestern cities are posting sharp increases. Cook County, Illinois, which includes Chicago, saw cases rise from 413 at the end of last week to more than 1,900 Friday, according to data from the University of Chicago. The county accounts for three-quarters of the state’s total.Outbreaks in Louisiana, Arkansas and Tennesee also accelerated recently. Cases in Nashville’s Davidson County quadrupled in a week, as did those in Orleans Parish, Louisiana.Read the full story hereSerbia Expands Mandatory Isolation (11:55 a.m. NY)Serbia doubled the mandatory isolation period for people returning from abroad to 28 days and extended the weekend curfew by two hours as total infections jumped the most in a day on Saturday.The biggest former Yugoslav republic reported 131 new cases, bringing the total to 659. Ten people have died and about as many are in critical condition, Health Minister Zlatibor Loncar said.Russia to Shut Borders (11:40 a.m. NY)Russia will temporarily shut its borders starting March 30 after a sharp increase in infections in the past week. on Saturday, health officials reported 228 new cases overnight, bringing the total to 1,264, with four deaths.The order, posted on the government website, followed increasingly harsh limits on movement. Moscow’s mayor shut all non-essential business on Saturday and recommended everyone stay home. The government halted international flights on Friday and Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin called on regions to close most businesses, but stopped short of issuing an order.The government is considering a temporary halt of domestic flights and trains, Interfax reported, citing an unidentified official.Read the story hereU.K. Has Most Deaths in a Day (10:30 a.m. NY)The U.K. reported a 34% increase in deaths in one day, its biggest surge since the outbreak began.Fatalities jumped by 260, to 1,019, as of late Friday, the Department of Health and Social Care reported. There were 17,089 confirmed cases Saturday, up from 14,543 a day earlier. The government is expanding testing for hospital staff and building new facilities near London, Birmingham and Manchester.Denmark’s Premier Pledges to Reopen ASAP (10:44 a.m. NY)Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen on Facebook said she doesn’t think it will be several months before Denmark reopens, responding to speculation that limits could remain in place for several months. “We don’t want to keep Denmark under lock down for one day more than necessary,” Frederiksen said in the posting.Portugal Deaths Rise (10:20 a.m. NY)Portugal’s cases rose 20% in one day and deaths climbed to 100 from 76, a fraction of the fatalities in neighboring European nations.Deaths so far indicate a fatality rate of 1.9%, but 7.9% for those more than 70 years old, Health Minister Marta Temido said in Lisbon. The peak of infections may occur at the end of May, based on current data, she said. “This indicates that the containment measures that we’ve adopted, namely that people stay at home except to go to work, are being effective,” Temido said.Trump Clears State Funding (9:15 a.m. NY)President Trump approved disaster declarations for Michigan and Massachusetts on Friday. He has approved declarations for more than a dozen states, making them eligible for certain federal funding.Earlier, Trump complained that Gretchen Whitmer, Michigan’s Democratic governor, as well as her counterpart in Washington, don’t appreciate his administration’s efforts to combat the coronavirus epidemic, and said Vice President Mike Pence shouldn’t take their calls.Namibia Shuts Mines, Quarries (8:45 a.m. NY)Namibia, the world’s top producer of marine diamonds and the fifth-biggest of uranium. halted mining and quarrying operations to curb the outbreak, Minister of Mines and Energy Tom Alweendo said. The semi-arid southwest African nation will allow minimal operations and critical maintenance work. Namibia, with eight virus cases, imposed a partial lockdown of the capital, Windhoek.Study Cuts U.K. Death Estimate (7:47 a.m. NY)The number of coronavirus fatalities in Britain could be much lower than previously estimated thanks to social distancing, according to a new paper from statisticians at Imperial College London, the Times reported. That’s a sharp drop from previous analysis that suggested fatalities from the virus could be 260,000 if Britain maintained its previous policy of less restrictive interventions.Prime Minister Boris Johnson became the first world leader to reveal he has Covid-19 yesterday.Sweden Begins Random Testing (7:27 a.m.)Swedish health authorities have begun random testing in Stockholm to help contain the spread of the coronavirus, Sveriges Radio reported.About 1,000 people will undergo testing, the broadcaster reported, citing state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell. Switzerland is also going to start testing for antibodies next week to see if people have already had the virus, and once the test is more readily available, those tests will be done on a grander scale, the health ministry said on a webcast.Spain’s Deadliest Day (6:42 a.m. NY)Spain said 832 people died from coronavirus in the last 24 hours, its deadliest day since the outbreak began. That brings total fatalities to 5,690 after the country recorded 769 deaths on Friday.Health Minister Salvador Illa warned on Friday that the pandemic has yet to reach its peak in Spain.Germany to Stay Locked Down (6:37 a.m. NY)German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the country’s lockdown rules are unlikely to be relaxed because they are needed to protect the health-care system.Her chief of staff, Helge Braun, separately told newspaper Der Tagesspiegel it has been decided to keep the current measures largely in place until April 20.Loss of Smell Key Symptom (6:30 a.m. NY)The coronavirus is capable of attacking key cells in the nose, which may explain the unusual finding that some Covid-19 sufferers lose their ability to smell and taste, Harvard Medical School researchers found.Their study of human and mice genomic data found certain cells at the back of the nose harbor the distinctly shaped proteins that the coronavirus targets to invade the body. Infection of these cells could directly or indirectly lead to an altered sense of smell, they said in a paper published Saturday.Japan Stimulus to Exceed Financial Crisis (5:30 p.m. HK)Japan will extend economic stimulus on an “unprecedented scale” in response to the outbreak, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said.There will be cash handouts for citizens and the government will act to protect regional employment, he said in a televised press briefing on Saturday. The government actions will be on a larger scale than that of the financial crisis more than a decade ago, he said.Abe said a supplementary budget will be passed as soon as possible, as he cautioned that the battle against the virus will be a long one. Japan is preparing its virus-related policities with the worst-case scenario in mind, the prime minister said.Dutch Hospitals to Reach ICU Bed Capacity (5 p.m. HK)Dutch hospitals will probably reach full capacity of intensive care unit beds on Sunday due to the pandemic, local newspaper Trouw writes, citing numbers from a medical association. The government is currently in talks with Germany to see if it can transfer intenive-care patients. Doctors have also started calling elderly people at home to ask if they want to be treated in the hospital or at home if they get Covid-19, causing panic among older citizens, newspaper Telegraaf reported.Later, Philips delivered the first 100 of 1,000 ventilators to the Netherlands from the U.S. The devices will help to increase the number of ICU beds.Hubei Border Clash After Quarantine Lifted (3:45 p.m. HK)Dozens of people clashed on the Hubei border after the Chinese government lifted a two-month quarantine on the epicenter of the country’s coronavirus outbreak. The conflict began Friday morning on a bridge connecting Hubei and neighboring Jiangxi province as policemen from both sides argued over how to verify if people were allowed to enter Jiangxi, according to local media reports.The two counties issued a joint statement on Saturday, saying checkpoints between them would be removed and no special documentation would be needed to cross.Tokyo Sees Biggest Daily Increase in Cases (3:30 p.m. HK)New coronavirus infections in Tokyo rose by more than 60 on Saturday, the biggest daily increase yet, according to Kyodo News. The rise comes amid a critical weekend for the capital, where people have been asked -- though not forced -- to stay at home.Iran to Punish Those Who Ignore Social Distancing Rules (3 p.m. HK)Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said people who ignore social distancing rules aimed at stopping the spread of the coronavirus would be punished.“Anyone who doesn’t want to listen or chooses to resist will face harsher measures this time around,” Rouhani said in a television broadcast. “Punishments are in place to that end, but hopefully we will never get there.”This week authorities introduced stricter measures to combat the outbreak, including a ban on intercity travel and the closing of parks and other public spaces.The country’s oil, power facilities and fuel supply have been unaffected by the outbreak, the president added.Singapore Advises Public to Stay Indoors, Shop Online (1:05 p.m. HK)Singapore advised its public to stay at home in its latest effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus, a day after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the city state is facing a grave economic challenge posed by the pandemic.The public should only head to malls for essential items such as food, the government said in an advisory on its official WhatsApp channel, suggesting that people “buy food and groceries online.”Mexico’s AMLO Encourages Shopping in Public Markets (11:19 a.m. HK)Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said people should shop in public markets to support small businesses during the coronavirus outbreak.“Those at the top know how to defend themselves; they can resist,” he said in a video posted on Facebook. “Those at the bottom have a hard time in times of crisis”The president has been criticized for his response to the virus, though he appeared to be changing tone recently. The Health Ministry has advised people to maintain social distance from one another to inhibit the virus’s spread.China Signals Ramped-Up Stimulus (10:26 a.m. HK)China’s top leaders pledged to widen the fiscal deficit and sell sovereign debt, signaling that Beijing is preparing larger-scale stimulus to counter the economic fallout from the virus.China will increase its fiscal deficit as a share of gross domestic product, issue special sovereign debt and allow local governments to sell more infrastructure bonds as part of a package to stabilize the economy, according to a Politburo meeting on Wednesday, Xinhua reported late Friday.Singapore Defense Forum Called Off (10 a.m. HK)The Shangri-La Dialogue, a high-profile regional security forum held annually in Singapore, has been canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak.The forum, usually attended by ministerial-level delegates and top defense officials globally, was scheduled to be held from June 5-7. This is the first time the event is being canceled since its inception in 2002.Australian State Introduces Social Distance Fines (9:45 a.m. HK)In the Australian state of Victoria, police have been given power to issue on-the-spot fines of up to A$1,652 ($1,020) for individuals and A$9,913 for businesses who don’t follow rules on social distancing or limits on gatherings. Premier Dan Andrews said he wouldn’t hesitate to close beaches after police were forced to disperse hundreds of people sunbathing on Melbourne’s St. Kilda beach on Friday.Australia’s death toll from the coronavirus outbreak has risen to 14, according to government figures released Saturday. The number of confirmed infections stood at 3,635 as of Saturday afternoon, an increase of 469 from Friday afternoon.China Says All New Virus Cases on March 27 Imported (9:30 a.m. HK)China’s National Health Commission said all 54 new coronavirus cases reported on March 27 were imported, as an order to seal the borders to most foreigners takes effect Saturday.China had 81,394 confirmed cases as of March 27, with 649 of those imported, according to a statement on NHC’s website. The death toll rose by three to 3,295, with all new deaths reported in Hubei province. Discharged patients rose by 383 to 74,971.Abbott Launches Five-Minute Virus Test (7:31 a.m. HK)Abbott Laboratories is unveiling a coronavirus test that can tell if someone is infected in as little as five minutes, and is so small and portable it can be used in almost any health-care setting.The medical-device maker plans to supply 50,000 tests a day starting April 1, said John Frels, vice president of research and development at Abbott Diagnostics. The molecular test looks for fragments of the coronavirus genome, which can be detected in as little as five minutes when it’s present at high levels. A thorough search to definitively rule out an infection can take up to 13 minutes, he said.Read full story hereFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
General Motors Co has reached a $120 million (96.2 million pounds) settlement with owners who claimed that their vehicles lost value because of defective ignition switches, which have been linked to 124 deaths. The preliminary settlement was filed on Friday night with the federal court in Manhattan and requires approval by U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman. It would resolve the last major piece of litigation stemming from ignition switches that could cause GM vehicles to stall and prevent airbags from deploying.
The decision is due to a "strong drop in demand, especially in the automotive sector, in a context of sharply lower metal prices," the company said. Lead is umbilically tied to the automotive sector. Collapsing automotive production and sales are generating a demand shock that is travelling up the value chain through parts suppliers to metals fabricators and on to metal producers such as Recylex.
(Bloomberg) -- Sixteen months after Mary Barra angered Donald Trump by announcing plans to close several U.S. factories in states the president vowed to revive, the General Motors Co. CEO is back on the outs with the White House.Unlike in late 2018, Trump’s Friday fracas over ventilators caught GM completely off guard, according to people familiar with the matter. Trump first went on a Twitter tirade, accusing the company of taking too long to make the desperately needed medical devices and of trying to gouge the government. By the evening, he dredged up an old grudge, taking another shot at the automaker for closing a car factory in Ohio.Executives at GM -- which had worked around the clock for a week to convert an Indiana parts plant into a breathing-machine factory -- were themselves frustrated over how long it was taking the federal government to finalize terms with its partner Ventec Life Systems Inc., said people familiar with the private deliberations. GM forged ahead and detailed the ventilator deal in a midday statement that didn’t refer to Trump but disputed him by saying it would be “contributing its resources at cost.”Trump followed up his angry tweets hours later with an order that GM accept a federal contract that the company and Ventec had been seeking all along. His missives marked another set of twists and turns in what has been a tumultuous relationship between one of America’s most prominent companies and a president who prides himself on an ability to work with the private sector.Patching things up with the White House will be crucial for a company that is struggling to cope with its plants having to idle amid the coronavirus pandemic. The company is freezing work on new-vehicle programs, deferring pay for white-collar staff and piling up cash to weather a global health crisis and the economic fallout expected to follow for months to come.“The entire GM team is proud to support this initiative,” the company said in response to Trump’s order. “Our commitment to build Ventec’s high-quality critical care ventilator, VOCSN, has never wavered.”Reminiscent Run-InFor Barra, 58, the run-in with Trump is reminiscent of attacks the president waged after she went public in November 2018 with plans to close plants in Michigan, Ohio and elsewhere. Within hours of the announcement, Trump told reporters he had a conversation with Barra. Describing himself as “very tough” with the CEO, he told her “you better get back in,” referring specifically to GM’s plant in Lordstown, Ohio.The next day, Trump claimed his administration was looking into cutting all government subsidies the company received, including for electric cars. He didn’t follow through on the threat.In March 2019, Trump tweeted that GM needed to reopen the Lordstown plant or sell it to a new owner. The next day, he told followers he’d just spoken with Barra and claimed she blamed the United Auto Workers union for supposed intransigence. The next day, he urged the company and union to have talks on the plant immediately rather than when they were scheduled to negotiate a new labor deal in the fall.Barra had a breakthrough in May, when she gave Trump a heads-up that GM was working on a deal to sell the Lordstown factory to a maker of electric pickups. Trump tweeted “GREAT NEWS FOR OHIO!” and thanked “Mary B.” His posts preempted GM’s press release about the still-preliminary discussions by more than an hour.Taking Trump’s SideIn October, GM sided with the Trump administration’s in the legal fight he’d been having with California over the future of fuel economy rules.When other automakers were trying to arrange a compromise side deal with California, they purposely avoided broaching the idea with GM, the Wall Street Journal later reported. The group was worried GM was meeting with the administration and would try to derail their effort, the newspaper said, citing Mary Nichols, the head of California’s Air Resources Board.The same month, GM ended a painful and costly 40-day strike by reaching a deal with the UAW that saved a plant in Michigan the company had planned to close, though not the one in Ohio.Still, the company committed to investing $7.7 billion in U.S. facilities and creating or retaining 9,000 jobs as part of the four-year contract.“General Motors gave us a little hard time with one building, wasn’t happy about that,” Trump said at a December rally in Battle Creek, Michigan. “It was the only building I had a problem with in the whole car industry. Right? Alright, you know the one I’m talking about. I didn’t like that. Anyway, but they’re spending money, you know, what can I tell you.”‘Patriotic’ OfferBy March, as the Trump administration was responding to the coronavirus pandemic, Barra again had a private conversation with the White House, this time telling top economic adviser Larry Kudlow that the company was willing to call back workers to idled plants and try converting them to build ventilators.Kudlow alluded to the conversation during a March 18 interview on Fox News. He praised Barra’s offer to reporters afterward, saying it was made “on a voluntary basis for civic and patriotic reasons.”On March 20, GM announced its collaboration with Ventec. In the week since then, when Trump and other officials in his administration were asked why they hadn’t invoked the Cold War-era Defense Production Act and compelled manufacturers to make ventilators, they said companies including GM were already stepping up.‘Extremely Unhappy’That stance changed in dramatic fashion on Friday. Trump referred to “Mary B” again on Twitter, though this time he said it was “always a mess” working with her.During an evening press conference in the White House briefing room, he criticized GM anew for closing the plant in Ohio, which is now owned by Lordstown Motors Corp.“I was extremely unhappy with Lordstown, Ohio, when they left Lordstown, Ohio,” Trump said of GM. “Frankly, I think that would be a good place to build the ventilators, but we’ll see, we’ll see how that all works out.”GM’s wheels were in motion to make ventilators before Trump’s order, and the federal government isn’t going to make the company move any faster than it was already, said Kristin Dziczek, the vice president of industry, labor and economics at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Michigan.“Mary seems pretty unflappable, and she’s going to do what’s the right thing to do,” Dziczek said by phone. “She’ll just keep on keeping on and hope to receive some degree of clarity about what it is the customer wants, which is the federal government.”For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. became the first country to reach 100,000 coronavirus cases. Italy had its deadliest day with almost 1,000 fatalities. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his health secretary tested positive.President Donald Trump ordered General Motors to start making ventilators by invoking a Cold War-era law. Toyota’s idled U.S. manufacturing facilities will make much-needed face shields and masks.New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said new infections will be “astronomical.” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti warned his city may see a New York-like surge in less than a week.Key Developments:Cases top 585,000; 26,800 dead, 130,000 recovered: Johns HopkinsU.S. cases top 100,000, more than Italy, ChinaU.S. ramps up virus testing, but demand still outpaces supplyWorkers critical to world’s food supply falling illU.K. orders unprecedented shutdown of housing marketTokyo braces for critical weekendFrom Spain to Germany, farmers warn of fresh food shortagesSubscribe to a daily update on the virus from Bloomberg’s Prognosis team here.Click VRUS on the terminal for news and data on the coronavirus and here for maps and charts. For analysis of the impact from Bloomberg Economics, click here. To see the impact on oil and commodities demand, click here.U.S. Becomes First Nation With 100,000 Cases (5:27 p.m. NY)The U.S. became the first country to surpass 100,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus on Friday, a day after it overtook China to become the largest outbreak in the world. America’s most prominent hot spots are New York and New Jersey, which together account for half the country’s total cases. California has more than 4,000.L.A. Warns of New York-Level Surge in Five Days (5:06 p.m. NY)Los Angeles could see a coronavirus surge similar to New York City’s in five days if the spread continues at the rate it’s been going, Mayor Eric Garcetti said.“We will have doctors making excruciating decisions,” Garcetti said at a press briefing alongside Governor Gavin Newsom. They spoke in front of the U.S. Navy hospital ship Mercy, which docked in Los Angeles to lend extra medical space for non-coronavirus needs. It will be the largest hospital in the city, Garcetti said.Rhode Island Stops Cars With N.Y. Plates (5 p.m. NY)Rhode Island police, aided by the National Guard, on Saturday will conduct house-to-house searches to find people who traveled from New York to demand they begin 14 days of self-quarantine. State police are already stopping cars with New York license plates.“Right now we have a pin-pointed risk,” Governor Gina Raimondo said. “And that risk is called New York City.”Raimondo, a Democrat, said she consulted lawyers and while she couldn’t close the border, she felt confident she could enforce a quarantine. Many New Yorkers have summer houses in the state, especially in tony Newport, and the governor said authorities would be checking there.Trump Signs $2 Trillion Stimulus Bill (4:47 p.m. NY)President Donald Trump signed the largest stimulus package in U.S. history, a $2 trillion aid bill intended to rescue the economy. The plan will provide a massive injection of loans, tax breaks and direct payments to large corporations, small businesses and individuals whose revenue and income have plummeted under social distancing restrictions.Read full story hereFour Die on Holland America Cruise Ship (4:30 p.m. NY)Carnival Corp.’s Holland America line said four passengers died on its Zaandam ship, which has had an outbreak of flu-like symptoms on board, including at least two confirmed cases of Covid-19. The cruise line said the passengers were “older” but didn’t say how they died.The Zaandam, currently near Panama, was still at sea when cruise companies halted new voyages earlier this month.Trump Orders GM to Make Ventilators (4 p.m. NY)President Donald Trump ordered General Motors Co. to immediately begin making ventilators, invoking a Cold War-era defense act amid productive talks with the automaker.“Our negotiations with GM regarding its ability to supply ventilators have been productive, but our fight against the virus is too urgent to allow the give-and-take of the contracting process to continue to run its normal course. GM was wasting time,” Trump said in a statement. “Today’s action will help ensure the quick production of ventilators that will save American lives.”GM and ventilator maker Ventec Life Systems Inc. had much of what they needed in place to ramp up production of the breathing machines. They were just waiting on the Trump administration to place orders and cut checks.Belgium May Keep Limits Until May 2 (3 p.m. NY)Belgium extended restrictions on citizens and businesses, which took effect March 14, by two weeks until April 19, and Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes signaled a further extension to May 3, saying it’s too early to declare the epidemic under control. Belgians must stay at home except for essential activities such as grocery shopping. Gatherings by more than two people are banned and stores selling non-essential goods remain closed.N.Y. Seeks Aid for Four New Hospitals (2:45 p.m. NY)New York is seeking federal assistance for four new emergency hospitals, Governor Andrew Cuomo said, as the number of state deaths spiked 35% in a day to more than 500.The new sites would join four centers the U.S. is setting up in the city, he said. The state wants more beds for Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties. Cuomo spoke from the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on Manhattan’s west side, which is being converted into a 1,000-bed emergency hospital that will open Monday.Cuomo said current demand for medical equipment is adequately covered and that the state is stockpiling additional supplies for a potential peak of infections three weeks from now. “We don’t need them yet,” he said. “We need them for the apex.”The governor said he would keep the state’s schools closed for an additional two weeks, at which time the situation will be reassessed.Luxembourg Plans to Test for Herd Immunity (1:30 p.m. NY)Luxembourg is in an intensive planing phase to be among the first nations to research so-called herd immunity based on new blood tests the country is expecting to get, Health Minister Paulette Lenert said Friday.The new tests wouldn’t check for Covid-19 infections but whether people have developed immunity against the new virus. Luxembourg, due to its small population of just over 600,000 people, is in a fortunate position to do this, the minister said. Scientists would be able to test samples that would be representative of the entire population, the minister said.Italy’s Daily Toll Nears 1,000 (12:35 pm. NY)Italy had its highest daily death toll even as the number of new cases declined on Friday. Fatalities shot up to 969, the most in a 24-hour period since the start of the outbreak.New infections totaled 5,959, compared with 6,153 the previous day, civil protection authorities said at their daily news conference in Rome. Italy now has 86,498 total cases, roughly the same number as the U.S. and more than China, where the disease’s first outbreak occurred.U.S. Buys More Ventilators (12:30 p.m. NY)President Donald Trump said the federal government bought “many ventilators” from several companies he didn’t identify. Trump in a tweet said the names will be announced later.State and local officials have been pleading with the federal government for more ventilators as cases of the coronavirus mount.France Extends Restrictions (12:20 p.m. NY)French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said public confinement is being extended to April 15. The restrictions could be further extended if needed, he said in a press conference after a cabinet meeting on Friday. A scientific committee consulted by the government recommends at least six weeks of confinement, he said.Portugal’s Cases Rise 20% (12:14 p.m. NY)Portugal’s cases rose 20% to 4,268 from 3,544 a day earlier, the government’s Directorate-General of Health said. That compares with a daily increase of 18% reported Thursday and a 27% rise on Wednesday. The total number of deaths increased to 76 on Friday from 60 reported through Thursday morning.Director-General of Health Graça Freitas said the data suggest the peak won’t be a moment in time but rather a plateau, and may not occur before May.Libya, Syria Face Catastrophe: WHO (11:35 a.m. NY)Libya reported its first case this week, meaning 21 of 22 Eastern Mediterranean nations have infections. The World Health Organization said Libya’s capacity to respond is extremely limited in some areas and non-existent in others, with a large movement of people from neighboring countries.The outbreak also threatens to cause a catastrophe in Syria, the WHO said. Half of the nation’s hospitals are not functioning after nine years of war and thousands of health workers having fled the country. Millions of displaced people live in overcrowded camps in the country’s northwest, but after two days of tests using 300 WHO kits, no cases so far have been detected, the agency said.Toyota Shifts Factories to Face Shields (11:07 a.m. NY)Toyota Motor Corp.’s idled manufacturing facilities in the U.S. will make much-needed face shields and masks, and the Japanese automaker is closing in on deals with medical-device makers to help them boost production.The carmaker said Friday it will start mass production of face shields early next week to supply hospitals near its plants in Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and Texas. Toyota also said it is finalizing pacts with at least two companies to make breathing ventilators and respirator hoods, and it’s looking for partners to make protective masks. The company on Thursday extended its shutdown of North American factories for two weeks.U.K. Virus Deaths Jump 30% (10:29 a.m. NY)The number of people in the U.K. who have died from coronavirus increased by 31% to 759 as of Thursday, the Department of Health said. That’s higher than the five-day average of 20%.Some 14,579 have tested positive for the disease as of Friday, an increase of about 25%, above the five-day average of 20%.Two Fed Bankers Confident of Rebound (10:29 a.m. NY)Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic and Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan expressed confidence the U.S. economy will rebound when restrictions on activity are lifted.“This is a public health crisis” and different from a typical recession, Bostic said on Bloomberg Television Friday. Kaplan offered a similar view a few minutes earlier. “We were strong before we went into this, and we believe that we’ve got a great chance to come out of this very strong,” he said.Kaplan said unemployment would peak “in the low to mid teens” before recovering to around 7%-to-8% by year-end.Coronavirus Response Leaves U.K. Vulnerable: Lancet (9:29 a.m. NY)A delayed response by the U.K. government to the coronavirus pandemic has left the health system “wholly unprepared” for an expected surge of critically ill patients, according to the editor of the medical journal The Lancet.In a letter posted on the journal’s website, Richard Horton described chaos and panic across the National Health Service, basing his comments on messages he received from workers. The government last month should have expanded testing capacity, ensured the distribution of protective equipment and stepped up training, he said.U.K. Prime Minister, Health Secretary Have Virus (9:17 a.m. NY)British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will self-isolate in Downing Street for seven days after a test found he had the coronavirus, spokesman James Slack told reporters on Friday. Health Secretary Matt Hancock has also contracted the illness, in a double blow to the U.K. government’s response to the crisis.Both men have reported mild symptoms. Meals will be left at Johnson’s door while he continues to work by video-conference, Slack said. Hancock is self-isolating and working from home.These are the latest high-profile individuals to contract the virus in Britain after Prince Charles, the heir to the throne, tested positive.U.K. Sees No Change to Brexit Timetable (8:29 a.m. NY)“In terms of the timetable there’s no change from our point of view,” the U.K. prime minister’s spokesman James Slack told reporters in a conference call. Slack was asked if there would be an extension to the Brexit transition period beyond December.NYC Mayor Says Trump Needs to Face Reality on Ventilators (8:20 a.m. NY)New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said cases of the new coronavirus are going to become “astronomical,” putting unprecedented strain on the hospital system. Trump said in an interview on Fox News that he didn’t think New York state needed the 30,000 ventilators that Governor Andrew Cuomo has asked for to treat Covid-19 patents with respiratory conditions.“When the president says the state of New York doesn’t need 30,000 ventilators, with all due respect to him, he’s not looking at the facts of this astronomical growth of this crisis,” de Blasio said. “If they don’t have a ventilator, a lot of people are just not going to make it.”Rolls-Royce Pauses U.K. Civil-Engine Output (8:07 a.m. NY)Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc will wind down jetliner-engine production in the U.K. as it spends a week implementing cleanup and safety measures to cope with the coronavirus outbreak. The company, which makes turbines for wide-body planes, will “significantly reduce” all but essential activities within its U.K. civil aerospace facilities from midnight, it said in a statement Friday.Rolls-Royce is taking a break from manufacturing after customer Airbus SE also paused production to check on measures to protect employees from Covid-19. Boeing Co. has gone a step further, winding down planemaking in the Seattle area for two weeks after a worker died of virus-related complications.China Ramps Up Stimulus Measures (8 a.m. NY)China will “appropriately” raise its fiscal deficit as a share of gross domestic product, issue special sovereign debt and allow local governments to sell more infrastructure bonds as part of a stimulus package to stabilize the economy, according to a politburo meeting on Wednesday, central China television reported late on Friday.Italy Virus Curve Seen Flattening Slightly (7:49 a.m. NY)The curve of new coronavirus cases in Italy appears to have started flattening slightly since March 20, Silvio Brusaferro, head of the country’s National Health Institute, said at a press conference on Friday. The mortality rate in the country is proportional to patients’ age, Brusaferro said.The National Health Institute said the country wasn’t at the peak of the contagion yet, but the head of the Superior Health Council Franco Locatelli said there were clear signs that the containment measures “are efficient, so people must respect them.”Italy reported its biggest rise in coronavirus infections in the last five days on Thursday, as the disease spread further in the northern Lombardy region, even after weeks of rigid lockdown rules.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
General Motors Co said it will partner with Washington-based Ventec Life Systems to make ventilators at GM's Kokomo, Indiana, electrical components plant as soon as April, at the rate of 10,000 a month, up to 200,000 units. GM also will make surgical masks at its Warren, Michigan, facility, starting in early April and ramping up to 50,000 masks a day, with the ability to double that.
WASHINGTON/DETROIT (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump blasted General Motors Co and Ford Motor Co on Friday, calling on the two U.S. automakers to quickly build badly needed ventilators for COVID-19 patients and suggesting he might invoke the Defense Production Act to force the companies to move faster. GM and Ford separately announced this week that they are working with companies to help boost ventilator production. Many Democrats including New York Governor Andrew Cuomo have urged Trump to invoke the act, which grants the president the power to expand industrial production of key materials or products for national security and other reasons.
WASHINGTON/DETROIT (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday invoked emergency powers to require General Motors Co to build much-needed ventilators for coronavirus patients after he accused the largest U.S. automaker of "wasting time" during negotiations. Trump, who has been on the defensive for not moving faster to compel the production of medical equipment, for the first time invoked the Defense Production Act, saying GM was not moving quickly enough even though earlier on Friday the largest U.S. automaker announced it would begin building ventilators in the coming weeks. Asked about negotiations with GM over ventilators, Trump expressed anger with the company's decision to close an assembly plant in politically important Ohio.
With a wealth of 3-D printing capabilities and production power, governments have been reaching out to the car industry for support.
The two largest U.S. automakers on Thursday announced measures to shore up their finances as the coronavirus pandemic takes a deep economic bite, with Ford Motor Co aiming to resume production next month of its most profitable vehicles while cutting costs further. General Motors Co , the No. 1 U.S. automaker, said it planned to keep its plants closed indefinitely and was reducing the pay of salaried employees and executives and suspending some future product programs to conserve cash. GM's chief executive and chief financial officer issued a stark warning to company employees in an internal video, saying that "significant austerity measures" were needed to preserve the company's long-term viability.
(Bloomberg) -- General Motors Co. is freezing work on new-vehicle programs and deferring pay for white-collar staff to conserve cash while many of the carmaker’s plants are shut down as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.In an internal memo described to Bloomberg News, the automaker said salaried staff will have 20% of pay deferred starting April 1 through the fourth quarter of this year or first quarter of 2021. The company’s senior management team will take pay cuts of as much as 10% and defer 20% of their cash compensation. GM also will put 6,500 employees, many of them engineers who work at plants, on leave with 75% of their pay until production resumes.The austerity measures are expected to save a significant amount of cash for the carmaker, which has moved to shore up its balance sheet since temporarily closing its North American factories last week. GM tapped $16 billion from its credit facilities to roughly double its cash on hand earlier this week.“GM’s business and its balance sheet was very strong before the Covid-19 outbreak and the steps we are taking now will help ensure that we can regain our momentum as quickly as possible after this crisis is over,” Jim Cain, a GM spokesman, said in an email.While some vehicles under development will be delayed, models close to launch such as the lucrative Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade large SUVs will go on sale later this year as scheduled. The company will also spare its Cadillac electric SUV and Cruise Origin self-driving vehicle programs from delays, the spokesman said.The automaker is trying to save cash in order to avoid layoffs amid an uncertain economic outlook. GM said its salaried workers will be paid an additional 6% interest on top of the delayed compensation owed to them.Read more: Auto Giants Across the Globe Warned of Coming ‘Credit Shock’Car manufacturers are doing everything they can to preserve capital to help offset lost revenue from shuttered factories and deserted showrooms. Credit ratings companies have been scrutinizing the industry in recent days, with GM being put on a negative watch on Wednesday by Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s Investors Service.With the costs of borrowing potentially rising and demand for new vehicles possibly slowing further, it’s wise to cut costs, said Morningstar Inc. analyst David Whiston. “They have to plan in case things get worse,” Whiston said by phone. “If things get really bad, it’s about survival and survival means cash.”(Updates with employee cash deferment details from sixth paragraph)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- At the rate the coronavirus is spreading, car companies won’t be making vehicles or big profits for a while. Who’s going to foot their bills in the event of an economic downturn like 2008? A financial crisis-like bailout won’t be a good look.Heading into this slump, carmakers were hardly exercising restraint, splashing out on big, tech-savvy investments and electric vehicles. Many global brands like Ford Motor Co. botched their bets in China, the world’s largest market, and have struggled to keep up there as it weakened.Now, from the U.S. to India, Vietnam and Thailand and elsewhere, auto giants are shutting down production. It means more than turning the lights off. Sales are expected to fall almost 15% this year to fewer than 80 million vehicles, according S&P Global Ratings. In the U.S., the drop may be the biggest since 2009. Even as China tries to get back to work, auto and parts factories will likely run at low capacity.The pandemic is showing up vulnerabilities on balance sheets. Over the past two days, Moody’s Investors Services downgraded auto manufacturers including Toyota Motor Corp. and BMW AG, and put several others on review, including General Motors Co., citing “weaknesses in their credit profiles including their exposure to final consumer demand for light vehicles.” S&P downgraded Ford to junk status and put Toyota on review.The billions of dollars of cash that car companies are sitting on may give investors comfort that contingency plans are in place. But automakers run cash-intensive businesses, paying suppliers and funding operations. Having a cushion helps in tough times, but not for long.Unlike other cash-heavy enterprises, most also run so-called negative working capital, meaning their current liabilities are higher than current assets. A dollar upfront is better than a dollar in a few weeks. The reason they can do this is because they get paid by their dealers before delivery – especially in the U.S, which is a credit-driven market.That’s all good when the cars are selling. But when things turn down, these companies start burning through cash quickly, as my colleague Chris Bryant has written. Pre-virus sales outlooks were already poor. The trouble with Covid-19 is that no one knows how long it will last or when buyers will return. That makes it harder to say how much cash they’ll need, part of the reason some are proactively drawing down their credit lines.In the current gloom, it’s worth looking at how far every dollar of sales goes toward meeting operational expenses and paying down short-term debt, or the ratio of working capital to sales. Companies still have to meet their payables, but inventories aren’t being drained. During the financial crisis a decade ago, Bloomberg Intelligence’s Joel Levington notes the ratio started slightly negative and rose to 5%. If that occurred again, he estimates, an average automaker would need an additional $6.9 billion of capital. With cash needs cropping up across the economy, it’s unclear where that money would come from.The descent can be quick: At the height of the crisis, Japanese automakers in the U.S. ran negative free cash flows of 830 billion yen ($7.7 billion), according to Goldman Sachs Group Inc., dropping from close to positive 2 trillion yen. In China, cash flows are highly correlated to profitability. If you’re running losses, working capital will bite. The cascading effect of a cash crunch could run far and wide. Some large Chinese auto parts manufacturers rely on international automakers for 30% to 50% of their business to generate positive operating cash flow. “This could change quickly,” says Jefferies Financial Group Inc. analyst Alexious Lee.Then there’s the debt coming due. Automakers haven’t piled on large amounts except for their financing arms. But, per Levington, as of last week $179 billion of debt had a 30%-plus chance of default. The convulsions in markets will make it more expensive to pay. The likes of Tata Motors Ltd.-owned Jaguar Land Rover Automotive Plc have seen their bonds trade down to as low as 59 cents on the dollar. Across the sector, more than $100 billion matures this year with almost 40% rated below A, he notes.Financing arms, a big source of problems in 2008, have again become major drivers of operating profits. If China is any indication for how quickly things can sour, defaults on auto loan-backed securities rose sharply last month and prepayments fell to a record low.The position of car giants is now reminiscent of the pre-financial crisis years. When Detroit’s automakers were on the verge of collapse, the U.S. government braved public rebuke and stepped in with $82 billion in various forms to avoid the economic pain of collapse. The bailout remains debated, but one thing is clear: Carmakers will need help this time, too. While Washington’s new $2 trillion stimulus could indirectly benefit the sector, prolonged pain would need more support.Cars may have gotten better since the last crisis, but automakers haven’t readied their balance sheets or operations for one as severe as this is turning out to be.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Anjani Trivedi is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering industrial companies in Asia. She previously worked for the Wall Street Journal. For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
General Motors Co said Thursday it will extend a shutdown of its North American plants beyond March 30, but added it does not know when it will restart operations. All employees will have 20% of their cash compensation deferred, beginning April 1, the company added stating that healthcare benefits are not impacted. GM also said deferment in salaried employees' compensation will be repaid in lump sum no later than March 15, 2021.
Ford (F) will leverage its manufacturing and engineering resources to increase the production of medical equipment and materials for healthcare staff, first responders and COVID-19 patients.
General Motors Co and Ford Motor Co have widely touted their commitment to emission-free electric cars, but their production plans show a growing reliance on ever-larger gas-powered vehicles. The two biggest U.S. automakers will make more than 5 million SUVs and pickup trucks in 2026, but only about 320,000 electric vehicles, according to detailed production plans for North America seen by Reuters.
(Bloomberg) -- BMW AG, Ford Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. were downgraded by Moody’s Investors Service and their major European, U.S. and Japanese competitors were put under review for possible cuts as the coronavirus pandemic raises risks for automakers worldwide.BMW, the European carmaker with the best credit profile, was dropped one level to A2, while Ford’s rating fell to Ba2, another rung into junk. Moody’s put General Motors Co. under review along with Daimler AG, Jaguar Land Rover Automotive Plc, PSA Group, Renault SA, Volkswagen AG, Volvo Car AB and McLaren Holdings Ltd. In Japan, Toyota, Nissan Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co. were downgraded on Thursday.The rapid spread of the outbreak, a deteriorating economic outlook, falling oil prices and asset price declines are “creating a severe and extensive credit shock,” Moody’s said in a statement. “The combined credit effects of these developments are unprecedented.”Auto manufacturers and their parts suppliers have halted factories on both sides of the Atlantic amid government measures to isolate populations and restrict travel. The wave of work stoppages occurred as the viral epicenter moved to Europe from China and intensified in the U.S., halting sales and rippling through supply chains.Demand will drop “meaningfully” over the coming months, especially in Europe and North America, Moody’s said. It anticipates global demand will shrink about 14% in 2020 and could slump by roughly a third in the second quarter.‘Under Pressure’Japanese automakers are especially vulnerable because of the pandemic exacerbating “pronounced cyclical downturns and changing consumer demand,” Moody’s said, leaving them “vulnerable to shifts in market sentiment in these unprecedented operating conditions.”Toyota, which had the strongest credit profile among Japan’s auto companies, was cut to A1 from Aa3, while Honda was downgraded to A3 from A2. Nissan, which has seen decade-low profits and management turmoil since the November 2018 arrest of former Chairman Carlos Ghosn, was already the lowest in terms of credit ratings out of Japan’s top three carmakers. Moody’s cut Nissan’s rating to Baa3 from Baa1.Moody’s for now assumes GM and Ford’s full-year shipments will drop by as much as 18%, though it warned “risk to the downside is considerable.” GM shares pared a gain of as much as 9.6% to close up only 1.8% in New York. Ford, which had surged as much as 19% intraday, finished the day with an 8.9% advance.S&P Global Ratings still ranks Ford one step above junk. On Wednesday, the firm also put GM’s rating on watch for negative action.“Automaker credit rankings are increasingly under pressure -- another negative catalyst for bondholders -- and we suspect more downgrades loom globally, with Ford and Renault possibly becoming fallen angels,” Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Joel Levington said in a note.While GM probably can avoid a junk rating, falling into speculative grade causes problems for automakers’ lending units, Levington said by phone. Both GM and Ford get lots of cash from writing auto loans, and lower-rated debt makes borrowing more expensive.“It’s not the end of the world if one of these companies falls into high-yield,” he said. “But both Ford and GM make a lot of money from financing and their margins would go down.”State SupportFrench Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire this week pointed to the country’s auto and aeronautics industries as needing government support. The state has holdings in Renault and PSA. While Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard has dismissed a re-nationalization of the carmaker, he told Le Parisien the firm may ask for government guarantees. Renault shares rose as much as 2.8% in Paris.VW brand’s global sales chief Juergen Stackmann told Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in interview he expects a “normalization” of the situation on the German manufacturer’s home turf in the summer. The coronavirus won’t disappear entirely by then, but society and the economy can’t cope with a shutdown that lasts for longer, he said.The outlier in Moody’s latest report was Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, placed under review “with uncertain direction.” The Italian-American manufacturer faces the same daunting situation as peers, but the planned merger with PSA might potentially result in a higher rating of the combined group than Fiat Chrysler’s current standalone rating, it said.BMW’s downgrade was driven by its already weak standing within the A1 ratings category, the agency said.The Munich-based carmaker last week warned that both profit and sales would fall significantly this year as the pandemic disrupts production and supplies. The company has idled its European plants, as well as its largest plant in the U.S. in South Carolina, for more than two weeks.(Updates with Japanese automakers’ rating cuts.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
WASHINGTON/DETROIT (Reuters) - The $2 trillion economic rescue package before the U.S. Senate on Wednesday would send the federal government to the auto industry's rescue for the second time in a dozen years. Automakers are fearful of being tagged as seeking a new government bailout so soon after the 2009 government-funded auto restructurings. Detroit has not sought industry-specific assistance, instead making the case that the entire economy needs urgent access to liquidity.
(Bloomberg) -- Amazon.com Inc. has extended the shuttering of a warehouse dedicated to returning apparel after three workers tested positive for Covid-19, the first known instance of the online retailer indefinintely idling a U.S facility in response to the pandemic.The move comes after employees expressed concern that returning to work to process returned sneakers and wristwatches wasn’t worth the risk of contracting or spreading the respiratory disease.Workers at the Shepherdsville, Kentucky, warehouse, south of Louisville, had been told at a shift change Monday evening that the warehouse, called SDF9, would be closed for 48 hours for “enhanced, daily deep cleaning” to protect employees after the company was informed of positive coronavirus tests within the ranks.Then, a few hours before the first workers were scheduled to return to work Wednesday evening, employees learned from an automated call that the facility would remain closed for more cleaning, according to four employees who received the call.Workers will get their regularly scheduled pay, said the employees, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation from their employer. They will be contacted once the company has determined an opening date, the message said.As businesses across the U.S. shut down to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Amazon’s warehouses have taken a place alongside grocery stores, pharmacies and other essential facilities keeping their doors open during the pandemic. These companies are implicitly asking their employees to risk illness and the possibility of spreading the contagion to provide vital services. As part of that effort, Amazon last week cut off shipments of non-essential inventory to its warehouses to prioritize in-demand items.But in addition to Amazon’s more than 100 multipurpose warehouses in the U.S. -- which either stock small items like cans of soup or dry goods in interchangable bins or larger packages like bulk diapers, toilet paper and televisions -- Amazon has also kept open a smaller number of specialty warehouses. The Shepherdsville facility is geared toward sneakers, watches and T-shirts. Other, similar depots, spread across the country from Southern California to Georgia, can’t easily be repurposed to stock the essentials Amazon is prioritizing, according to people who track Amazon’s logistics network.For some workers in Shepherdsville, the idea of reopening their warehouse for the sake of returns seemed dangerous. “I can understand if they’re doing medical supplies and food, but we don’t,” an Amazon employee there said in an interview. “Does someone in quarantine really need these new shoes to wear around the house?” Some retailers, including Kroger and GameStop, have stopped accepting returns during the outbreak, while others have offered customers an extended return window so they don’t have to rush products back.In an email to employees sent last weekend, Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos acknowledged the challenge facing hundreds of thousands of employees unable to join white-collar colleagues working from home during the pandemic. “We’re providing a vital service to people everywhere, especially to those, like the elderly, who are most vulnerable,” wrote Bezos, the world’s richest person. “People are depending on us.”Amazon has said it’s following local public health guidelines for businesses that remain open during the pandemic. In some states that have ordered broad business shutdowns, such as New York, Amazon warehouses are exempted from closing orders because of their role in the nation’s supply chain.Some businesses have shut down proactively anyway. General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV agreed last week to idle their carmaking operations to protect employees. Boeing Co. resisted calls to shutter its airplane manufacturing facilities until an employee in the Seattle area died after contracting the coronavirus. When a person in Kentucky became the first known Walmart employee stricken with the disease earlier this month, the world’s largest retailer said it deferred to state health authorities and opted to keep the store open after some cleaning.In the last week, Amazon started eliminating warehouse shift meetings, staggering start times and rearranging warehouse break rooms to discourage congregating.Those steps haven’t prevented coronavirus cases from popping up in the company’s 800,000-strong workforce, in European countries hard-hit by the disease and, this week, in the U.S. Since Amazon temporarily closed a Queens, New York, delivery station following the disclosure an employee had been diagnosed with Covid-19 last week, Amazon warehouse workers in at least eight other states – California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Oklahoma and Texas – have been informed of cases of the respiratory disease in their ranks, according to media reports and employees in those facilities.An Amazon spokeswoman declined to respond to questions about the number of coronavirus cases in its warehouses or potential adjustments to facilities built to carry non-essential items.“We have increased the frequency and intensity of cleaning at all sites, including regular sanitization of door handles, handrails, touch screens, scanners, and other frequently touched areas,” the company said in an emailed statement. Amazon, the statement said, has been consulting with medical experts and public health authorities on what measures to take after employees contract the disease. “Our process evaluates where the employee was in the building, for how long, how much time has passed since they were onsite, and who they interacted with, among other items, in determining whether we need to close.”In interviews, 16 Amazon warehouse workers around the U.S. describe an atmosphere of fear. They said uncertainty about the spread of the new virus, mistrust of management and, sometimes, a coughing colleague nearby, fuel rumors about new cases. Some are working shorter hours or have stopped coming at all, taking Amazon up on its offer of unpaid time off without penalty through the end of the month. Many have started eating lunch in their cars rather than risk a trip to the break room.Amazon, which aims to hire 100,000 people to help keep up with a surge in orders during an emerging nationwide quarantine, has tried to keep workers coming in with hazard pay in the form of a $2 an hour raise and additional overtime compensation.One Amazon warehouse worker in Staten Island said he and his colleagues were excited to earn the extra $2 per hour but that the mood abruptly changed Tuesday when they learned from a human resources representative that one of their colleagues had tested positive for Covid-19. He was scheduled to earn double-pay on an overtime shift, $40 per hour -- a healthy bump over Amazon’s $15-an-hour national starting wage. Instead, he went home early.The worker said he and his colleagues are packing a lot of household essentials like cleaning products but that customers are still ordering such non-essential items as video-game consoles and clothing.“We’re selling everything,” he said.Amazon hasn’t identified any of the sick warehouse employees but says, in each case, it informed those who came into close contact with them. The general manager of SDF9 told employees in the voicemail on Wednesday that Amazon was working to determine who might have come into contact with the sick employees during their most recent shifts, and “will begin immediately contacting those individuals per our guidelines.”News of new cases has been filtering out to the workforce in sometimes haphazard fashion. Several employees said they heard of cases through automated voicemails or text messages that went out to all workers. But in Brownstown, near Detroit, one Amazon employee said she learned of her facility’s Covid-19 case on Facebook.In a warehouse in Oklahoma City, workers arrived on Monday to find a building buzzing that a colleague had posted about a positive test on social media, one employee said. Human resources didn’t confirm that during their shift, however, and many employees left for the day to find a local news van outside. Amazon, employees said, has generally opted to keep those buildings open or to close them for less than a day so workers can clean the facility.The exception so far is the Shepherdsville warehouse.The facility, which a state economic development group says employs about 2,000 people, is built around a massive returns department, where employees, working back to back, open boxes to check whether a returned item coming off a truck matches the description of its condition on a computer screen. Further down the line, employees wipe shoes and clothes clean with alcohol and other cleaners. Managers this week pulled some employees off the line to give workers more space, an attempt to reconcile their close quarters with federal guidelines that people maintain six feet of distance to slow the virus’s spread. There’s also a small outbound department.Before the sudden closing, managers had placed tape on the floor at six-foot intervals to encourage staff to avoid standing close together transmit the virus. Despite those measures, all 10 workers at the facility interviewed by Bloomberg said it should remain closed.The building isn’t set up for people to remain a safe distance from each other, they said. Some employees said cleaning materials like hand sanitizer and wipes have been hard to find on the floor. The facility shipped some of its own stock to a Whole Foods in the Chicago area, part of a triage effort that has Amazon warehouses around the country scrambling to acquire and distribute precious supplies.One worker said she asked a manager during a shift earlier this week why people were reporting for duty at all. Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear had ordered all non-essential retail businesses to close their customer-facing facilities on Monday as the state’s count of coronavirus cases topped 100, and expanded that shutdown order on Tuesday to encompass all non-life-sustaining businesses. The Amazon manager had responded that customers expect quick service on their returns, she said.The employee, worried about a family member at home with a compromised immune system, said she would have stayed away from work even if Amazon hadn’t opted to keep the facility closed.“I’d better not bring this home,” she said. “I think customers would understand.”For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.