Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Kraft Heinz shuts plants, cuts 2,500 jobs; Facebook profit up; Italy is top winemaker; Bhutan, nation of 90% joy

1 Kraft Heinz shuts plants, cuts 2,500 jobs (BBC) Food giant Kraft Heinz is closing seven factories and cutting 2,600 jobs in North America in an effort to reduce costs. The cuts are in addition to the 2,500 workers in the region the company announced it would let go in August.

Wednesday's cuts will account for almost 6% of its workforce and will take place over the next two years. The two firms merged in a $46bn deal in July to create North America's third biggest food company.

The cutbacks are part of the new company's plan to save about $1.5bn in operating costs by the end of 2017. The maker of well-known brands such as Macaroni and Cheese Dinner and Heinz Ketchup also said it would close a nearly 100-year-old Oscar Mayer meat plant in Wisconsin and move the operations to Chicago. The company is controlled by the Brazilian investment firm 3G Capital, which is known for trimming costs.

2 Facebook profit up (BBC) Facebook has reported a spike in profits in the third quarter on the back of increased advertising sales. The social media company reported net income was up 11% to $891m for the period between July and September compared with $806m last year.

Facebook also reported strong user growth in developing markets. Investors have been waiting for signs that Facebook has made money from Instagram and WhatsApp, and for increased revenue from video.

The company, which is already the world's largest social media site, reported it gained 60 million new monthly active users in the third quarter, bringing its global users to 1.55 billion. A growth in monthly active users means greater reach for advertisers using Facebook. The company said Facebook and Instagram account for one in every five minutes Americans spend online.

Facebook has been focused on efforts to get more small businesses to advertise on its website. Last week the company introduced a new slideshow feature that allows advertisers to produce lower cost videos for their products.

Investors had been watching to see the levels of spending as Facebook looks to grow and move beyond basic social media. It bought the virtual reality company Oculus Rift for $2bn in 2014. Oculus is virtual reality display that individuals wear on their heads. Many media analysts think it could change the gaming industry.

3 Italy is top winemaker (San Francisco Chronicle) Italy is the biggest wine producer in the world this year, pushing France back into second place, as good weather in most European countries pushes up production — and keeps a lid on prices for consumers.

The European Union's farm federation said quality and yields of the harvest were good, with production rising 2.7 percent to 171.2 million hectoliters. Italy had a 12 percent increase in volume to reach 50.3 million hectoliters.

Spain, though, saw its production fall to 40.6 million hectoliters this year from 53.6 million hectoliters the year before when a drought ravaged some of the vineyards in southern regions. In comparison, the US had an estimated level of production of 22.1 million hectoliters, with Argentina, Chili and Australia hovering around the 12-13 million mark.

4 Bhutan, nation of 90% joy (Tim Dowling in The Guardian) News from the International Conference on Gross National Happiness, says Bhutan’s happiness index rose from 0.743 in 2010 to 0.756 in 2015. “Is this fast or slow?” asked Bhutan’s prime minister in his keynote speech. “We do not yet know. We are still learning what is a ‘good’ growth rate!” He sounds jolly.

The notion of GNH was first introduced by Bhutan’s fourth king in the 70s, when he announced that “gross national happiness is more important that gross national product”. The GNH index is a number crunched from happiness survey statistics across nine “domains”, of which only one is living standards. Others include health, education, psychological wellbeing, time use, community vitality and cultural diversity.

GNH is a blend of hard numbers, subjective perceptions and virtually unmeasurable concepts, but it works pretty well in Bhutan, provided you’re not among the 17% of the population – mostly Hindus of Nepalese origin – expelled from the country in the 90s. It’s one way to get your GNH index up – kick out that oppressed minority.

In the last decade the idea of GNH has gained international traction. In the US some states measure the genuine progress indicator, alongside gross state product. In 2012, the UN released a World Happiness report. And the UK’s Office for National Statistics recently started measuring national wellbeing.

In Bhutan, people’s perceptions of their own health worsened even as healthcare indices improved. Still, 91% of Bhutanese are classed as either narrowly, extensively or deeply happy. Joy-wise it’s roughly on a par with Denmark, even though Bhutan’s adult literacy rate is around 60% and its GDP per capita puts it well below mid-table in world rankings.

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