Welcome to California Inc., the weekly newsletter of the L.A. Times Business Section.
I’m Business columnist David Lazarus, and here’s a rundown of upcoming stories this week and the highlights of last week.
Many of us are off this week and hitting the road. Happily, the average price of self-serve regular gas in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area is at the lowest level in eight years. Pump prices in the region are down nearly $2 a gallon from the all-time highs reached in October 2012, when refinery outages and heightened fears of lower supplies in California sent prices soaring.
Changes at the top: At least eight companies will be getting new chief executives this coming weekend. The new bosses, who all take over Dec. 31 or Jan. 1, are Bali Padda at Lego Group, Tom Hayes at Tyson Foods, Adena Friedman at Nasdaq, Ulf Mark Schneider at Nestlé, Debra Crew at Reynolds American, Sean Menke at Sabre Corp., Glenn Fogel at Priceline and Kunal Kapoor at Morningstar. Whole Foods Market will shift from having two CEOs to just one, co-founder John Mackey.
Extra time: Running out of time to get everything done before year’s end? Relax — on Saturday, you’ll get an extra second. Scientists have decided that the world’s clocks need to add a “leap second” to account for small changes in the Earth’s orbit of the sun. While the change is inconsequential for most people, it can be a pain for companies. When a leap second was added in 2012, the electronic reservation system for Qantas airline failed, and websites such as LinkedIn, Reddit and Yelp crashed.
Pay raise: California’s minimum wage will rise on Sunday to $10.50 an hour at companies with more than 25 employees. The move is part of a law passed in April to gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. The rate will go to $11 in 2018, and increase by $1 annually until 2022. Businesses with fewer than 26 employees get an additional year to comply, and the law allows the governor to delay increases by one year in the case of an economic downturn.
Stylish booze: Want a drink with your haircut? Starting Sunday, barbershops and hair salons in California will be allowed to serve customers up to 12 ounces of beer or six ounces of wine at no charge without a special license or permit. The law was the idea of Assemblyman Tom Daly (D-Anaheim), who said some of the state’s 41,830 beauty salons and barbershops already offer alcoholic beverages but may not have a license from the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and could get in trouble.
Monday’s Business section takes a timely look at airline travel — specifically, what’s known as “the turnaround.” This is the art of getting a plane that’s just landed back in the sky as quickly as possible. The adage time is money applies. The longer a plane sits at a gate, the fewer money-making routes it can fly. But if airlines try to shrink the turnaround time too much, there’s no room for error and departure times can be missed, drawing the ire of travelers.
Here are some of the other stories that ran in the Times Business section in recent days that we’re continuing to follow:
CalPERS eases up: In the four years since California’s largest pension fund recalibrated its investment projections, the annual contribution from state and local governments — in effect, the money paid by taxpayers — has slowly been on the rise. By the summer of next year, the pace of those payments will quicken, as the California Public Employees’ Retirement System throttles back the expectations of profits earned on its $300-billion portfolio.
Navarro appointment: President-elect Donald Trump, signaling that he intends to follow through on his tough talk on trade, is establishing a new White House-based trade council to be headed by a vehement critic of China’s economic policies. Trump named Peter Navarro, a Harvard-trained business professor at UC Irvine, as director of trade and industrial policy and the head of the newly created White House National Trade Council.
Uber stops test: In a rare occurrence, Uber submitted to state authorities and pulled its self-driving cars off the streets of San Francisco. The state Department of Motor Vehicles revoked the registration of 16 Uber cars being used commercially as test vehicles for self-driving technology. Although a human driver employed by Uber inhabited each vehicle, the DMV said Uber’s registrations were “improperly issued” because “they were not properly marked as test vehicles.”
Not right now: Millennials have produced plenty of anxiety for automakers. But after much hand-wringing among automakers, recent data reveal a large, diverse group with complicated views about cars — ones that are fundamentally different from that of previous generations. For many millennials, they aren’t ditching car ownership altogether, they’re simply delaying it.
Lower your taxes: December isn’t traditionally seen as tax time. But during the last days of the year, you can take steps to lower your bill when you file your returns. Here are six moves to consider.
WHAT WE’RE READING
And some recent stories from other publications that caught our eye:
Manufacturing mojo: The Washington Post has a U.S. map showing where manufacturing jobs have disappeared, and where they’re returning. “They’re not the same jobs that left. They’re not coming back everywhere, or even in the same places where jobs were lost.”
Big losses: Vanity Fair says Uber is on track to lose nearly $3 billion this year. “As Uber inches toward a hotly anticipated I.P.O., it may be necessary to pare its losses in the coming quarters to keep from scaring those investors away.”
Pebble’s demise: Backchannel tells the inside story of the demise of the Pebble smartwatch. “It turned out that both Pebble — and, incidentally, Apple — had misjudged the wearables market.”
PR fails: Fast Company explores lessons learned from three of the biggest PR fails of 2016. “There is always a better and a worse way to talk to customers and the public when something's gone wrong.”
Robobutler: Inc. runs down the lessons Mark Zuckerberg learned building a robot butler for his home. The Facebook CEO’s main takeaway “is that artificial intelligence is both more advanced and more limited than he thought.”
Zuckerberg’s excellent robotic adventure raises the inevitable question about the best movie or TV robot of all time. There have been plenty. One of the earliest (and best) was Maria in “Metropolis.” Special mentions have to go to “The Terminator” and the clunky robot from “Lost in Space.” More recently we had “Ex Machina” and “Pacific Rim.” But the prize for all-time coolest robot belongs to Robbie from “Forbidden Planet.”
For the latest money news, go to www.latimes.com/business. Until next time, I’ll see you in the Business section.