Missouri Minute: New Boeing jet makes first flight; Sprint reports earnings as decision looms

Good morning, MBA readers,

After nearly a year of negative fallout from two fatal crashes involving its 737 MAX planes, Boeing was able to promote a positive development Monday. The company’s new 777X aircraft, featuring parts produced at its St. Louis County facility, took its first successful test flight. It will become the first Boeing plane to be certified since those 737 MAX crashes. Elsewhere, Sprint released what some analysts expect to be its last quarterly financial report as a standalone company, with Sprint’s fate hanging on a lawsuit over its proposed merger with T-Mobile. Executives insisted Sprint is “stable” despite the company posting another quarterly loss. And in Jefferson City, lobbyists for a controversial herbal remedy are hoping to convince lawmakers to keep the substance legal in Missouri. Scroll down to read more about these stories and other business news from around the state.

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Boeing’s 777X jet successfully makes first flight
The company’s plant in north St. Louis County built parts for the wing of the new plane, which is the first of the company’s jets to be certified since the two fatal 737 MAX crashes that have plagued the company’s finances for the past year. The 777X will enter service in 2021, one year later than expected due to development issues. (Reuters, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Sprint calls latest earnings ‘stable’ despite losses
Awaiting regulatory approval of its proposed merger with T-Mobile, Sprint reported net operating revenue of $8.08 billion for the quarter ended Dec. 31, down from $8.6 billion. The Overland Park, Kansas-based wireless company posted a net loss of $120 million, or 3 cents a share. Executives called earnings “stable” six times in the company’s earnings report. (Kansas City Business Journal)

JW Aluminum to close, laying off 190
The aluminum plant located in St. Louis will shut its doors in May, citing Chinese competition as the catalyst for the closure. Despite tariffs and duties, the plant couldn’t compete with China’s “market-distorting behavior,” the company’s chief executive said in a statement. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

T-Mobile extends lease for Springfield call center
The telecom company will extend its Springfield lease until 2026, according to an announcement from property owner Gladstone Commercial Corp. With 825 workers, T-Mobile is one of the 20 largest employers in the Springfield area. (Springfield Business Journal)

17 arrested in downtown St. Louis union protest
St. Louis Alderman Megan Ellyia Green was among those arrested for hosting a sit-in protest in the middle of a busy downtown street on Monday. Protesters supporting the Service Employees International Union Local 1 marched on behalf of St. Louis janitors’ request to increase their contracted minimum wage to $15 per hour. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

St. Louis Holocaust Museum plans $18 million expansion
The project will triple the museum’s size and give it the capacity to house more exhibits and two new classrooms. The museum has raised around $14 million for construction, which will begin in May. (St. Louis Public Radio)

Springfield-area doctor indicted for millions of dollars in fraud
Dr. Randall Halley was indicted for his role in an alleged $2.4 million medical fraud scheme. Halley previously worked as a director at a number of different residential care facilities in the Springfield area and was Missouri’s leading prescriber of an unnamed fentanyl spray, according to authorities. He was accused of accepting bribes from a pharmaceutical company to prescribe the spray. (Springfield Business Journal)

Bar Louie to close locations in Kansas City, St. Louis
The Texas-based bar chain filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Monday. Locations in St. Louis’ Central West End and Kansas City’s Power & Light District have closed their doors, but other locations in both cities will stay open. The company said the bankruptcy sale will help Bar Louie focus on its more profitable locations. (Kansas City Star)

Say that again

“Mercifully, this will (almost certainly… please, please, please) be the last earnings call for Sprint-in-limbo.”

That’s what Craig Moffett, co-founder and senior research analyst at MoffettNathanson, wrote in a note released Monday after Sprint issued its fiscal third-quarter earnings report, the Kansas City Business Journal reports. The Overland Park, Kansas-based telecom company did not hold the usual conference call with analysts. But the report included a message from CEO Michel Combes that he’s optimistic about Sprint’s merger with T-Mobile, which awaits a final verdict in federal court. Regardless of how the court rules on the deal, this will likely be Sprint’s final earnings report, Moffett wrote. If the deal clears the last legal hurdle, it would be rolled into the New T-Mobile organization. But if it doesn’t, Moffett said, Sprint will “likely” spiral toward bankruptcy.

Go figure

$7.5 million

That’s how much Rodger Riney, founder of Scottrade Financial Services, and his wife, Paula, donated to BioSTL, the St. Louis Business Journal reports. The donation, which comes from the Paula and Rodger Riney Charitable Fund, is the couple’s first gift to the local bioscience startup support organization. BioSTL said the money will be used to fund new companies, recruit new firms to the region and provide business development programming to entrepreneurs. In the past, Rodger Riney has invested in St. Louis startups through his family office, Lightchain Capital. His family is known for making donations to medical schools and life science research. “St. Louis researchers are on the vanguard of discovering and commercializing lifesaving treatments and cures, and Paula and I are delighted to support the work of BioSTL in this endeavor,” Rodger Riney said.

Hello, my name is

Kratom Consumer Protection Act

An industry group is taking various versions of this proposed legislation from statehouse to statehouse across the country, including Missouri’s, The Kansas City Star reports. Earlier this month, lobbyists for American Kratom Association pitched the bill to Missouri lawmakers, hoping to regulate and preserve the sale of kratom products. The herbal supplement, which currently remains legal in Missouri, is used by about 15 million Americans as an alternative to opioid painkillers and anti-depressant medication. But it’s not without critics and apparent danger. Last year, three people died of kratom-related causes in the St. Louis area, prompting local governments to consider banning the substance. Missouri is one of 21 states that are considering a ban or restriction of kratom. The Food and Drug Administration claims that kratom offers no medical benefits but carries the risk of addiction or even death.

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


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