Missouri Minute: Richard faces questions about consumer protection bill; Buffett-backed firm considering competing Panera bid

Here are today’s top business headlines from across Missouri:

Pay to play? Missouri Senate leader faces questions about consumer protection bill

Six days after Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard filed legislation seeking to make big changes to Missouri’s consumer protection law, he got a $100,000 check from Joplin businessman David Humphreys. The timing of that Dec. 7 donation, and the fact that the legislation in question could undercut a class-action lawsuit against Humphreys’ company, has stirred allegations of pay-to-play against Richard and calls for an investigation. Read more

Report: Buffett-backed firm considering competing Panera bid

Brazil-based private equity firm 3G Capital reportedly is considering making a competing bid for Panera Bread, which has agreed to be acquired by JAB Holdings in a pending $7.5 billion deal. 3G Capital, which is backed by Warren Buffett and owns the Burger King and Tim Hortons chains, is seriously weighing a rival bid for Panera and has hired investment bank Lazard to look into the matter, sources told the New York Post. The source told the newspaper that 3G has the capacity to make a rival bid. Read more

Ride-hailing regulations pass Missouri Senate

After three years of trying, the Missouri Senate passed a proposal Tuesday that would give ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft long-sought breaks from local regulation, a measure legislative leadership and Gov. Eric Greitens have said would spur job creation and economic growth in the state. Under the bill, the companies and their drivers would be exempt from most fees and rules set by local regulators. Instead, they would pay an annual $5,000 fee to the state and conduct their own background checks and vehicle inspections. Read more

Blue Cross of Kansas City is close to turning a profit on Obamacare

A new report shows that for the first time last year Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City made more money on the Obamacare exchange than it paid in claims. The bond ratings agency Standard & Poor’s analyzed Blue Cross plans in 32 parts of the country and found that most are figuring out how to better set premiums to meet the cost of new enrollees as the Affordable Care Act exchanges begin their fourth year. Read more

It’s been a sweet deal for Hostess investors

Kansas City-based Hostess Brands Inc., maker of Twinkies, Ho Hos and other snack cakes, is proving a good investment for two private-equity firms that pulled the company out of bankruptcy. Since going public, the reborn Hostess Brands company has returned about 40 percent on investment and has an estimated market value of $2.1 billion. Read more

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