Missouri Minute: Evergy said to explore sale; KC convention hotel sets opening date

Good morning, MBA readers,

Less than two years removed from the completion of a mega-merger that gave rise to Evergy, the Kansas City-based utility could be headed for the auction block. Under steady pressure from activist investor Elliot Management to either make wholesale changes or sell, Evergy plans to do the latter, Bloomberg reports, citing people familiar with the matter. Among the reported potential suitors? Ameren, the St. Louis-based utility. In a St. Louis-area deal of smaller scale, Thompson Street Capital Partners has acquired the software company that invented the zip file format. Plus, as Kansas City emerges from a local stay-at-home order, the city’s much-anticipated downtown convention hotel has announced plans to open June 1, two months later than originally planned.


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Stay alert

Fed: Lower-income workers more vulnerable to pandemic job losses
The coronavirus crisis is leading to more job cuts among lower-income workers, with 39% of people who earn less than $40,000 reporting a job loss in March, according to a new report from the Federal Reserve Bank. (Reuters)

Evergy explores potential sale, as urged by activist investor
The Kansas City-based utility plans to start a formal sales process next month, according to unnamed people familiar with the matter, after sustained pressure from activist investor Elliot Management. Evergy’s goal is to have proposals in place before the July 30 deadline. (Bloomberg)

Missouri allows people to use food stamps for online grocery shopping
Missourians who are part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program may now use their benefits to purchase food online from retailers like Amazon and Walmart, in an effort to reduce exposure to the coronavirus. Roughly 361,000 Missouri households received SNAP benefits as of April 30. (Missourinet)

Former UAW head pleads not guilty in embezzlement case
Former United Auto Workers President Gary Jones on Thursday pleaded not guilty to charges that he embezzled over $1 million from the union. Before becoming UAW president, Jones led its regional office based in the St. Louis area. (Reuters)

TIAA offers voluntary buyout to 75% of workforce
The New York financial services firm, which owns St. Louis-based TIAA FSB trust company, is offering a voluntary buyout for 75% of its U.S. workers and two-thirds of overseas employees. The company has 16,500 employees and expects between 5% to 7% of those eligible will take the offer. (St. Louis Business Journal)

St. Louis startup scores $20 million for Alzheimer’s research
C2N Diagnostics, a company that is developing a blood test for Alzheimer’s disease, has raised $20 million in investment from the Minneapolis-based GHR Foundation. The company plans to use the funds to build out a clinical lab testing facility in St. Louis. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

St. Louis firm acquires inventor of zip files
Thompson Street Capital Partners announced it has acquired PKWARE, a Milwaukee-based data security firm that invented the zip file format used for file compression and encryption. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Thompson Street usually buys companies with pre-tax earnings of $5 million to $25 million. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Essential workers demonstrate in St. Louis to support HEROES Act
A caravan of local essential workers — ranging from nurses to fast-food workers — paraded through downtown St. Louis on Thursday, demanding support for the congressional HEROES Act. The bill would provide additional relief funds to every American worker. (KSDK)

BKD gets bigger in Texas with two new deals
The Springfield-based accounting firm on Thursday announced its acquisition of Dallas-based CampbellWilson, a $3 million health care regulatory consulting firm with 10 employees. That follows a deal last week in which BKD acquired a portion of Grant Thornton’s government audit practice in Texas and Oklahoma. (Springfield Business Journal)

Loews KC sets new opening date
The $367 million, 800-room Loews Kansas City Hotel now plans to open on June 1, almost two months behind schedule due to the coronavirus outbreak. (Kansas City Business Journal)

Benson Hill inks new land deals to grow non-GMO soybeans
The St. Louis-based agtech startup said Thursday it has contracted 30,000 acres nationwide to grow its new non-GMO soybean varieties. The new varieties are designed to boost the nutrition of soy-based products while providing high crop yield. (St. Louis Business Journal)


Show me

Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun rankled airline executives this week by saying in an interview that a major U.S. carrier would “likely” be forced out of business by the coronavirus. Today’s graphic offers another snapshot of the steep decline in air travel due to the pandemic. At Kansas City International Airport, the March passenger count was just shy of 481,000, a decrease of nearly 53% from the same month in 2019.


Say that again

“The problem is mainly that (business leaders) aren’t educated that the technology is already there. … So the vast majority already have it available, they just haven’t been using it.”

That’s Pat O’Boyle, a founding partner at Kansas City-area payment technology consultancy MSP Consulting, explaining why the U.S. is lagging behind in the adoption of contactless payments amid a pandemic, the Kansas City Business Journal reports. His comments come as Mastercard reports that 51% of Americans have some form of contactless payment method, such as tap-to-go credit cards or mobile wallets. However, O’Boyle said, contactless payment still makes up less than 10% of all transactions in the U.S. It’s not because the technology is not available, he said. Rather, it’s a lack of knowledge about the technology that is keeping businesses from offering it to more consumers. O’Boyle suggested that businesses may benefit from eliminating or discouraging in-person payments altogether and opting for online payments.


Go figure

36.1%

That’s how much small business revenue in Missouri fell between early January and April 25, according to a new study. Nationally, revenue for small businesses decreased 39.8% over the same period. The study was conducted by the Opportunity Insights nonprofit at Harvard University. Small business revenue fell 40.1%, 39.4% and 39.2% in Jackson, St. Louis and Greene counties, respectively.


Hello, my name is

Mike Braun

This entrepreneur is selling his St. Louis-based storm restoration firm, 123 Exteriors, to focus on his new spinoff company, the St. Louis Business Journal reports. Braun sold 123 Exteriors to Fred Grove, the company’s longtime COO. Over the past 14 years, 123 Exteriors has grown to eight offices across the Midwest with more than 60 employees. The sale comes as Braun turns his attention to Elite Claims Solutions, a supplementing and estimating firm for companies like 123 Exteriors. It was born out of 123 Exteriors’ own internal pitch contest, in which employees were asked to develop ideas for ancillary business. Chastidy Fricke pitched the idea for Elite Claims and now serves as its president.


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


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