Business By Carlson 5-17-17

Content provided by Paul Vaaler of the Carlson School

Happy Syttende Mai to everyone in ‘CCO land. May 17 is Norway’s National (Constitution) Day. It’s a day off from work and time to celebrate for 5.2 million Norwegians. Millions more around the world claiming Norwegian heritage –me included– will also celebrate. I remember family trips to Ingebretsens on Lake Street followed by picnics at Minnehaha State Park with traditional hardanger filddle (hardingfele) music and dancing in the background.

Today, that celebration may also have some big business overtones. The Norwegian government has a sovereign wealth fund worth $945 billion –the largest in the world. It’s invested in more than 9,000 companies across all industries worldwide. The fund’s latest investments have been in City of London property, which has frequently been selling below asking price since last June’s Brexit vote. Here is where you can learn more about those London property investments: http://www.cityam.com/264803/norways-sovereign-wealth-fund-worlds-largest-buys-three. The Norwegians are also interested in corporate social responsibility issues with their investments. Collectively, those 9,000 companies owned by the fund emit more than 100 million tons of carbon dioxide contributing to adverse climate change. That’s twice as much as the 53 million tons of CO2 emitted by Norway itself. The fund’s CEO Yngve Slyngstad –yes, that’s really his name– wants to reduce the fund’s carbon footprint, so he’s about to recommend divestment from some of the biggest emitters in the fund. Here is where you can learn more about that initiative: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-norway-swf-emissions-idUSKCN18C1O4. Watch out business world. The Norwegians are coming with both greenbacks and green policies.

There’s a “battle of beds” shaping up between two Minnesota companies. Casper Sleep Inc., an online seller of mattresses and other bedding products that shook up the industry with direct sales of “bed-in-a-box” mattresses, has made a deal with Minneapolis-based Target Corp. to begin selling many of its wares through the retailer’s stores. You won’t yet be able to buy the mattress at the store (but can at Target.com), but the other accessories –pillows and sheets– will be available at Target stores nationally. Casper came on in 2014 with only on-line sales of its single bed-in-a-box product. Now, Casper is diversifying its selling channels…and big time with Target as a partner. Here is where you can learn more about Casper and the Target deal: http://www.bizjournals.com/twincities/news/2017/05/16/target-partners-with-bed-in-a-box-maker-casper.html, Casper is challenging the industry, including another Minneapolis bed-maker, Select Comfort. With it’s Sleep Number beds, the Select Comfort is more luxurious than Casper’s one-size-fits-all bed. But the price-to-quality quotient may be quite comparable between the two bed-makers. And that’s making for interesting competition, which neither Select Comfort nor Target will take lying down.

US car giant Ford Motor Company has announced that it will cut 10% of its workforce globally. Here’s where you can learn more about that announcement: https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/cars/2017/05/15/report-ford-cut-10-global-workforce/101735488/. The Dearborn, Michigan automaker has been under pressure both from its board of directors and from shareholders in recent days to show that its strategic plan is working as US industry sales begin to decline for the first time in seven years. Ford’s profits sank 35% during the first quarter to $1.6 billion as higher costs for warranties, recalls and materials eroded profits. Here’s where some US presidential politics come into the picture. Remember how last winter Trump “saved” Ford jobs that were supposedly heading to plants in Mexico? Ford also announced this week the continuation of shifts in production of the popular Ford Focus to those Mexican plants. That’s likely a sign that workforce cuts will hit US plants. We’ll see how that sits with a White House that touts its job-creating mission. Global business versus national political pressure: Which do you think will prevail at Ford? There’s no escape (or Escape) from that question.

A new flavor for Oreo cookies? Yes, it’s true. Oreo’s owner, Mondelez International, is asking fans to submit their ideas for a new Oreo flavor with the hashtag #MyOreoCreation, and offering a $500,000 prize to the winning creation. Here is where you can learn more about the contest: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/oreo-cookie-contest-dangles-500000-prize-for-new-flavor/ I guess the company is trying to capitalize on the “success” it had in rolling out a customer-suggested flavor now known as “Oreo Firework.” That version includes vanilla creme with “popping candy,” or its own version of the Pop Rocks candy.. Here’s my contest idea given that it’s syttende mai. An Oreo cookie with a Norwegian goat cheese filling: Oreo ekte gjetost. Hmmm, good, or at least better than my prospective contest submission: Oreo lutefisk. Uff dah!

Here is today’s Podcast Link!

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