Missouri Minute: FTC challenges Arch Coal-Peabody venture; Ford recalls KC-built trucks

Good morning, MBA readers,

For global businesses, teamwork can be a double-edged sword. Today’s headlines are a testament to the fickle nature of cooperation between corporations. Take Bayer and Monsanto. Since the German conglomerate bought the Creve Coeur-based seed and chemical maker, the combined company has been contending with waves of lawsuits tied to two of Monsanto’s leading products. That led to Wednesday’s news that Bayer is bringing in a new chairman, in an effort to pressure the company’s CEO to resolve those legal battles. Elsewhere in tales of titans teaming up, St. Louis-based coal companies Peabody Energy and Arch Coal will have to overcome anti-competitive concerns to move forward with a planned joint venture in Wyoming. Federal regulators announced Wednesday that they were suing to block the deal. But, in a sunnier story of synergy, Perficient, the St. Louis IT consultancy, reported double-digit revenue growth for 2019, driven by — wouldn’t you know — an aggressive approach to overseas acquisitions. Scroll down for more on those stories and the rest of Missouri’s top business news.


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FTC sues to block Peabody/Arch Coal joint venture
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission said Wednesday it filed a lawsuit to block a joint venture in Wyoming between the two St. Louis coal miners as it would allegedly reduce competition. Both Peabody Energy and Arch Coal said they intend to challenge the decision in the coming months and continue to pursue their joint project. (Reuters)

Ford recalls trucks built in KC
Ford has issued recalls for around 180,000 pickup trucks in the U.S. and more than 70,000 in Canada, many of which were built at the Kansas City Assembly Plant in Claycomo. These include a safety compliance recall for 2018 through 2020 Ford F-150 pickup trucks with LED headlamps and a safety recall for 2015 and 2016 F-150s for engine block heater issues. (Kansas City Business Journal)

H&R Block sues former franchisee
The Kansas City-based tax preparation company is suing Juan Cardenas Jr., accusing the former franchisee of breaching noncompetition and nonsolicitation agreements. The lawsuit claims that Cardenas continued to conduct business under the H&R Block name after the company terminated its franchise agreement with him. (Kansas City Business Journal)

Regional council tables St. Louis airport governance study
The East-West Gateway Council of Governments on Wednesday voted to table a study examining alternative ways of governing St. Louis Lambert International Airport. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Lumeris cuts jobs after acquisition
The St. Louis-based health care technology company has laid off an undisclosed number of workers after an acquisition this week. Lumeris affiliate Essence Healthcare on Monday announced a deal to buy Mutual of Omaha Medicare Advantage Co. and Medicare Advantage Co. of Omaha for an undisclosed sum. (St. Louis Business Journal)

CEO resigns at one of largest St. Louis-area hospitals
St. Luke’s Hospital said Christine Candio will resign effective April 1 as CEO to be closer to family on the East Coast. Candio began her tenure in 2015 and oversaw the 2018 acquisition of the 143-bed Des Peres Hospital. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Loews fills out Ballpark Village with new Cardinals-themed hotel
Loews Hotels on Wednesday opened a new 216-room hotel at Ballpark Village across from Busch Stadium in St. Louis. The hotel is one of the final pieces of the $261 million second phase of Ballpark Village. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Five St. Louis-area Gordmans to close
Stage Stores, the Houston-based buyer of bankrupt Gormans assets, said the retail chain will shut five stores in the St. Louis area, leaving just one in Crystal City. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Mediterranean restaurant chain hits pause on KC expansion plans
Meddy’s, a fast-casual Mediterranean restaurant chain, is putting on hold its plans to expand in Kansas City, citing unfavorable real estate prices in the area. The chain was looking for its first location outside its home in Wichita, Kansas, and has signed a lease in Tulsa instead. (Kansas City Business Journal)

Feds cite charcoal company for safety hazards at Missouri plants
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is recommending fines of nearly $340,000 against Royal Oak Enterprises for exposing employees at two Missouri plants to safety and health hazards. OSHA found 19 serious violations at a plant in Branson and 10 violations at a plant in Summersville. (Associated Press)

Missouri contractor sentenced to 12 years in prison for fraud
Timothy Mundy, who used to do business as a contractor under several names, has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for defrauding and exploiting the elderly. Former Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley in 2017 obtained a nearly $644,000 judgment against Mundy for defrauding clients in Springfield, Branson and other cities. (Springfield Business Journal)

O’Reilly Auto executives sell over 25,000 company shares
Two executives at the Springfield-based auto parts retailer have recently bought and sold shares totaling nearly $8 million. Robert Dumas, a senior vice president, bought and sold 25,000 shares, making $7.6 million. Larry Ellis, another senior vice president, bought and sold 1,050 shares, making over $321,000. (Springfield Business Journal)


Say that again

“What speaks in favor of Winkeljohann is the fact that he can look at the Monsanto issue with fresh eyes. That can be a challenge for Baumann, particularly in the difficult phase that the company is in.”

That’s what Deka Investment fund manager Ingo Speich said of Norbert Winkeljohann, who is taking over as chairman of Bayer amid a legal crisis, Reuters reports. Winkeljohann, the former head of Europe at accounting and consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, succeeds Werner Wenning, who announced Wednesday he will step down at the company’s annual shareholder meeting in April. The departure of Wenning, who strongly supported Bayer’s $63 billion purchase of Creve Coeur-based Monsanto, comes as the company faces two separate batches of lawsuits over two of its leading products. Despite the optimism about the effect Winkeljohann’s arrival will have on Bayer CEO Werner Baumann, Speich and other observers expressed disappointment that Winkeljohann has no expertise running an international pharmaceutical or agriculture business.


Go figure

13%

That’s how much St. Louis-based Perficient’s revenue grew, to $566 million, in fiscal 2019, up from $498 million the previous year, the St. Louis Business Journal reports. Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Davis attributed the spike to the IT consulting and services firm’s global merger strategy, which has driven the company to make more than three dozen deals over the last two-plus decades. The company’s offshore revenue increased every quarter of 2019 and was up more than 20% for the year, Davis said. Perficient has significant operations in India, where it had 826 employees at the end of 2019, and China, where it employed more than 120.


Hello, my name is

Yardbird

This Minneapolis firm is bringing its outdoor furniture fashioned from repurposed ocean plastic to a new showroom in Kansas City, the Kansas City Business Journal reports. After the success of its first retail showroom, Yardbird looked for other markets for expansion. The direct-to-consumer company homed in on Kansas City for a new location when it noticed that a large concentration of its customers live in the area, co-founder Jay Dillon said. Yardbird plans to open a 3,500-square-foot location next month in Overland Park, Kansas, along with showrooms in Denver and Detroit. The locations will feature 11 furniture collections including dining sets and sofas made from 100% recyclable material. Last year, Lardbird used more than 92,000 pounds of repurposed plastic in its furniture and packaging.


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


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