By Francesca Fontana 

Netflix Inc.

Netflix has a steady stream of new subscribers. The company said Tuesday it topped 200 million paying customers for the first time after adding a record 37 million in 2020. The streaming giant's continued growth comes in the midst of heightened competition from tech giants and media conglomerates. A new rival, ViacomCBS Inc.'s Paramount+, is slated to launch in March and will exploit a key advantage media companies have over their tech competitors: cross-promotion. Netflix shares surged 17% Wednesday.

Microsoft Corp.

Microsoft is betting big on driverless cars. The software giant on Tuesday joined a group of companies that will invest more than $2 billion in General Motors Co.'s driverless-car startup, Cruise. Under the terms of the deal, Cruise will use Microsoft's Azure cloud-computing platform to help it roll out autonomous-vehicle services. GM said Microsoft would be its preferred cloud provider and help it streamline supply chains and roll out new digital services to customers. In recent years, the tech giant has been aggressively pushing its cloud-computing business, where it rents server capacity and software tools to customers. Microsoft shares rose 1.8% Tuesday.

UnitedHealth Group Inc.

More patients are returning to doctors' offices, taking a toll on UnitedHealth's health. The parent company of insurer UnitedHealthcare recorded a smaller profit in the recent quarter as it saw rising medical costs tied to Covid-19. UnitedHealth said Covid-19-related costs represented 11% of health-care activity in the quarter, and about half of the 65,000 Covid-19 admissions during the quarter came in December. The company also paid more in medical costs to cover insured members who sought care they had avoided or postponed earlier in the coronavirus pandemic. UnitedHealth shares fell 0.4% Wednesday.

Procter & Gamble Co.

Shoppers are paying up to keep themselves and their homes clean. Procter & Gamble reported an 8% surge in sales in the latest quarter, fueled in part by demand for its high-end products. The maker of Tide laundry detergent and Pampers diapers said consumers are increasingly willing to pay more for products from expensive dish soap to a $300 electric toothbrush, despite a tough economy and high unemployment. A shift toward higher-end staples is especially good news for P&G, as its products are usually among the pricier items in grocery stores. P&G shares fell 1.3% Wednesday.

Facebook Inc.

The fate of Donald Trump's Facebook page is out of Mark Zuckerberg's hands. The social-media giant said Thursday that the former president's Facebook and Instagram accounts will remain suspended as members of its outside oversight board determine whether posts Mr. Trump made before the U.S. Capitol riot violated the company's community standards and values. The independent panel, which has been likened to a Supreme Court for content decisions, is an international group of academics, lawyers and human-rights advocates. Mr. Trump's accounts were first disabled after he encouraged protests of the election results and his supporters stormed the Capitol in a Jan. 6 attack that left five dead. Facebook shares added 2% Thursday.

Travelers Cos.

The pandemic is keeping drivers off the roads and out of wrecks--and auto insurance profits high. Insurance-seller Travelers saw profit surge 50% in its latest quarter, fueled in part by strong results in its car-insurance business. Government stay-at-home orders and business restrictions led to a dramatic reduction in driving starting last March. The number of miles driven has rebounded since then, but roads in many parts of the country remain less crowded as many people continue to work from home. Not everyone will cheer Travelers's outsize profits in its auto-insurance business. Since last spring, consumer-activist groups successfully pushed insurers to provide refunds and now contend that auto insurers should share more of their windfall. Travelers shares added 2.6% Thursday.

Intel Corp.

Intel's new leader will have a lot on his plate. Incoming Chief Executive Pat Gelsinger said Thursday that the chip maker plans to outsource more chip production after the company posted net income for 2020 of $20.9 billion, down from the year-earlier period. The announcement rounded off a year during which Intel was surpassed in market valuation by rival Nvidia Corp. and dropped by Apple Inc. as a supplier for Mac chips. While Intel benefited from booming demand for PCs in the work-from-home economy, much of the added buying involved lower-cost laptops that aren't as profitable. Intel shares fell 9.3% Friday.

Write to Francesca Fontana at francesca.fontana@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 22, 2021 21:26 ET (02:26 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.