By Francesca Fontana 

Ford Motor Co.

Detroit's auto makers are temporarily shutting down factories in the U.S., Mexico and Canada to limit the spread of the new coronavirus. Ford, General Motors Co., and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV came to the decision Wednesday after discussions with union leaders. The shutdown will be treated like other routine work stoppages, during which the companies are required to provide affected employees with extra pay to supplement unemployment benefits. Ford shares fell 10% Wednesday.

Comcast Corp.

Theater closures aren't stopping Universal Pictures from showing its movies. The film studio, owned by Comcast, said Monday that by the end of the week, recently released films like "The Invisible Man," "The Hunt" and "Emma" will be available for digital rental for $19.99 in the U.S., or the equivalent value in overseas markets. Paying the rental fee will allow customers 48 hours to watch the movie. The move is a massive change from Hollywood's long-established business model that could upend the industry if other studios follow suit. The decision comes amid widespread closures of movie theaters as the global coronavirus pandemic spreads. Comcast shares fell 8.4% Monday.

Boeing Co.

Boeing workers are bracing for possible cuts as a cash drain ravages their company. The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Boeing is considering a dividend reduction and possibly laying off workers at its jetliner plants. The coronavirus-driven collapse in passenger traffic has forced airlines to park hundreds of planes and left them unwilling to take new ones, even as Boeing works to overcome the yearlong grounding of its 737 MAX. Earlier in the week, Boeing said it was seeking at least $60 billion to aid the U.S. aerospace industry, asking for support from private and public sources. Boeing shares fell 4.1% Thursday.

General Mills Inc.

U.S. consumers are stocking up on food to ride out the pandemic, meaning more demand for Cheerios cereal, Yoplait yogurt and Progresso soup. The company that makes those products said Wednesday that retailers in North America and Europe have started buying more and its factories are running at near capacity to keep up. Over the past week people have started stocking up on essentially all foods, not just staples like soup and flour, Chief Executive Jeff Harmening said. General Mills said it has contingency plans to keep factories running if workers stay home due to school closures and social-distancing measures. General Mills shares fell 3.2% Wednesday.

Marriott International Inc.

The world's largest hotel company is starting to furlough employees as economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic mounts. Marriott said Tuesday that it expects to temporarily lay off tens of thousands of workers as it ramps up hotel closings around the world. The company began shutting down some of its managed properties last week. The employees at these properties won't be paid while on furlough but the bulk will keep receiving health-care benefits paid for by the hotel owner, which for the vast majority of the brand's properties isn't Marriott. Marriott is also trimming staff through furloughs at properties that are still operating. The staff reductions include everyone from general managers to housekeepers. Marriott shares fell 13% Tuesday. Inc. is going on a hiring spree as millions turn to online deliveries as a way of limiting the spread of the new coronavirus. The tech giant plans to hire an additional 100,000 employees in the U.S. and is raising pay for all employees in fulfillment centers, transportation, stores and deliveries in the U.S. and Canada by $2 an hour. The decision shows the dual challenge Amazon and its peers face as they try to meet surging demand and also take care of employees at the front lines of the pandemic. The 100,000 new Amazon jobs, in locations across the U.S., will be added at a time when broader retail is contracting and retailers rethink operating physical stores during a pandemic. Amazon shares gained 7% Tuesday.

Altria Group Inc.

Altria's CEO has contracted the coronavirus illness, becoming one of the first leaders of a major U.S. company to be hit by the fast-spreading outbreak. Howard Willard, the tobacco giant's chairman and chief executive officer, is taking a temporary medical leave of absence and Finance Chief Billy Gifford will assume his authority and responsibilities until he returns. Altria also announced a two-week suspension of operations at the Richmond, Va., manufacturing center where it makes Marlboros after two employees tested positive for the virus. The company said it has enough cigarette inventory to continue shipping at current rates for about two months. Altria shares fell 7.6% Friday.

Write to Francesca Fontana at


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

March 20, 2020 19:46 ET (23:46 GMT)

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