Missouri Minute: State support for Sprint deal grows; Airlines extend 737 Max cancellations

Good morning, MBA readers,

The U.S. Department of Justice’s proposed settlement of a lawsuit over Sprint and T-Mobile’s merger has gained backing from another state. Arkansas became the ninth state to officially endorse the deal, which would require the divestment of assets to Dish Network. But even as they gain footing in the fight over their $26 billion deal, the two wireless carriers face a new challenge: Their first merger agreement has now expired, which means Michel Combes of Sprint and John Legere of T-Mobile likely will have to get together to renegotiate. Scroll down to read more about this and other top Missouri business stories.


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Southwest, American extend 737 Max cancellations until early March
Both airlines will remove all Boeing 737 Max planes from their flight schedules through early March. Southwest Airlines, which previously grounded the aircraft through Feb. 8, made the new decision as its flight attendants union considers suing Boeing over lost pay as a result of the prolonged grounding of the Max around the world. (CNBC)

Ninth state backs Sprint, T-Mobile merger
Arkansas announced Friday that it will back the Justice Department’s settlement to approve Sprint and T-Mobile’s $26 billion merger. Fifteen states and Washington, D.C. are suing to block the deal. The companies are in talks to extend the deal agreement, which expired last week. (Reuters)

Court rejects Ferrellgas trustee’s request for restraining order
The U.S. District Court in Kansas has rejected GreatBanc Trust’s request for a restraining order as Ferrell Cos. replaces GreatBanc as the trustee of its employee stock ownership program. GreatBanc’s request for preliminary injunction remains pending, which could further escalate the feud between the trustee and Overland Park, Kansas-based Ferrell Cos.’ board of directors. (Kansas City Business Journal)

USDA: KC network outage likely caused delay in crop report
The U.S. Department of Agriculture said a network outage at its transmission site in Kansas City likely caused a delay in its release of monthly crop size estimates. Some farmers took aim at the reports themselves, claiming the USDA has been overstating the size of the corn crop, pushing grain prices low in the months after historic flooding delayed planting this spring. (Reuters)

Springfield’s ADF/IDF closes $900 million sale
Germany’s Symrise AG closed on its $900 million purchase of American Dehydrated Foods and International Dehydrated Foods last week following approval by the U.S. Department of Justice. Symrise, a maker of food products, will begin integrating ADF/IDF into its nutrition and flavor divisions. (Springfield Business Journal)

Schnucks expands curbside pickup
Schnuck Markets has added curbside pickup at 28 of its grocery stores, boosting to 59 the number of Schnucks stores that offer online grocery orders via Instacart. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Two KC startups move to St. Louis for Arch Grants awards
Health Hip Hop and FastDemocracy are relocating to St. Louis after they each earned $50,000 in equity-free grants from Arch Grants. The grants come with a catch: Startups must run their business in St. Louis for at least a year. (Startland News)

KC data startup sells earlier than planned
Lenexa, Kansas-based Yotabites has sold to ProKarma, an engineering experience firm in Oregon, for an undisclosed amount. The boutique big data firm had planned for an exit in 2025. (Startland News)

Business group turns to familiar T-shirt design to promote KC
The Kansas City Area Development Council has turned to local vintage T-shirt maker Charlie Hustle for use of its popular KC heart logo to promote the region. The company has sold nearly a million shirts bearing the logo, which has been spotted on celebrities like Paul Rudd. (Kansas City Star)

Gordon Ramsay opens KC steakhouse
Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay came to Kansas City to launch his new steakhouse inside Harrah’s North Kansas City Casino & Hotel. The restaurant, which has over 200 seats and private dining rooms, features some of Ramsay’s classic dishes, such as beef Wellington, made from locally sourced ingredients. (Kansas City Business Journal)


Show me

Today’s graphic offers another look at Amtrak in Missouri. The route between Kansas City and St. Louis was one of the most lucrative within the train operator’s Midwest region for the last fiscal year. The cross-Missouri trip was tied for the highest revenue-to-cost ratio in the region for fiscal 2018, generating about $1.08 of revenue for every $1 of cost.


Say that again

“It’s kind of a one-two punch of more stress being put on these systems at a time when they are already fragile.”

That’s Mark Abkowitz, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Vanderbilt University, who says increasingly extreme climates are putting greater pressures on roads and other infrastructure in states like Missouri, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. St. Louis has seen record-high temperatures with greater frequency in recent years, which causes pavement to expand. Similarly, rising heat can also hurt bridges and electric grids. That poses a costly challenge for Missouri, which is currently scrambling to repair highways and bridges across the state.


Go figure

$5.5 billion

According to Major League Baseball, that’s how much Missourians are expected to wager on professional sports per year if and when the state legalizes sports gambling, Missourinet reports. An MLB representative testified before the Missouri House Special Interim Committee on Gaming last week, citing a report from the American Gaming Association. The report predicts casino operators would make about $376 million a year from legalized sports betting and that the state would rake in about $37 million a year in taxes. The National Football League Players Association, which also testified, called for a hotline to combat match fixing.


Hello, my name is

Wugen

The fast-growing St. Louis biotech startup has plans for new investment and clinical trials next year, the St. Louis Business Journal reports. Wugen, which is developing “off the shelf” cancer medications, was created in 2018 from technologies licensed from Washington University researchers. The company expects to raise approximately $30 million to $45 million in a Series A funding round next year, which would allow Wugen to expand its staff from 10 full-time employees to around 30. Wugen also plans to file an Investigational New Drug application with the Food and Drug Administration in mid-2020.


It’s been a pleasure doing business with you this morning.


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