By Paul Page
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The walls between Amazon.com Inc.'s venture-capital investment fund and its commercial business don't appear to be very high. Entrepreneurs, investors and deal advisers say in interviews that Amazon has appeared to use the investment and deal-making process to help develop competing products, the WSJ's Dana Mattioli and Cara Lombardo report. In some cases, Amazon's decision to launch a competing product devastated the business in which it invested. In other cases, Amazon met with startups about potential takeovers, studied their technology, then declined to invest and later introduced similar Amazon-branded products. Amazon says it doesn't use confidential information from companies to build competing products. The e-commerce giant is facing scrutiny in Washington over whether it unfairly uses its size and platform against competitors and third-party sellers. Amazon has the money and appetite and for innovation that attracts entrepreneurs, but it looks like dealing with Amazon can be a double-edged sword.
ECONOMY & TRADE
U.S. tariffs on imported aluminum are triggering a rift in the metal's domestic supply chain. Aluminum customers are getting exclusions from the levies on billions of pounds of imported metal, the WSJ's Bob Tita reports, prompting protests from operators of U.S. mills who say the actions undermine the domestic market that the duties were supposed to revive. The exclusions granted by the Commerce Department have grown this year as manufacturers of aluminum cans and other packaging have claimed they can't get products like particular types of rolled sheet metal that they need from domestic suppliers. Aluminum producers say imports are growing, however, and helping drive down their pricing and margins. Both sides are being buffeted by changing consumer tastes, which have prompted new products and packaging, a commercial trend that appears to be outpacing the Commerce Department's attempt to intercede in aluminum markets.
SUPPLY CHAIN STRATEGIES
Rapidly retooling its supply chain is paying off for Unilever PLC. The consumer-goods supplier aggressively expanded its previously small hand-sanitizer business, the WSJ's Saabira Chaudhuri reports, and emerged from a tumultuous second quarter with profits and revenues largely intact despite dramatic shifts in its business lines. Unilever's sales at its restaurant-focused food-service arm declined nearly 40% over the first six months of the year. The company combined its global scale with a swift response to the coronavirus-driven lockdowns and upheaval in consumer demand, expanding manufacturing sites making sanitizer from just two to more than 60. It pushed monthly production from about 700,000 units of sanitizer to around 100 million units by repurposing manufacturing lines and in one case kitting out a factory in Vietnam in just 25 days. With forecasts for consumer markets still uncertain, the supplier will have to remain just as nimble for the foreseeable future.
IN OTHER NEWS
A purchasing managers survey shows eurozone economic activity rose in July at the fastest pace in more than two years. (WSJ)
Filings by Americans for weekly unemployment benefits rose for the first time in nearly four months. (WSJ)
Second-quarter profit at warehousing giant Prologis Inc. rose 5.4% to $404.5 million as net effective rent jumped 22%. (MarketWatch)
Blackstone Group Inc. is buying a nearly $1 billion infrastructure investment portfolio from Alaska Permanent Fund. (WSJ)
American Airlines Group Inc. will pare back flights again after restoring operations at an aggressive pace earlier this summer. (WSJ)
U.S. regulators suggest broader reporting requirements for meatpacking companies as they investigate pricing gyrations in cattle markets. (WSJ)
Ann Taylor and Lane Bryant parent Ascena Retail Group Inc. filed for bankruptcy with plans to close roughly 1,100 stores. (WSJ)
Coal miner Rhino Resource Partners filed for bankruptcy protection with a plan to sell its business to lenders. (WSJ)
Quarterly sales at rural lifestyle retailer Tractor Supply Co. rose 35% and net income jumped 54.5%. (WSJ)
Intel Corp.'s second-quarter profit rose 22% but the semiconductor maker signaled a delay in its development of superfast chips. (WSJ)
Hershey Co. says subdued Halloween celebrations as a result of the coronavirus pandemic could hurt candy demand. (WSJ)
Ford Motor Co. says a protest blocking rail traffic in northern Mexico is affecting nearby factory operations and hindering cross-border shipments. (Reuters)
Supply-chain backlogs are pushing deliveries of Whirlpool Corp. appliances out as long as six months. (Bloomberg)
Autonomous truck maker TuSimple has minimal revenues that fall far short of the company's earlier projections. (The Information)
Alternative-fuel truck maker Nikola Corp. broke ground on a factory in Arizona. (Barron's)
Paccar's North American Class 8 truck deliveries fell to 9,300 in the second quarter from 30,000 a year ago. (Transport Dive)
Several cargo vessels are anchored in quarantine off Hong Kong after crew members infected with Covid-19 were found on board. (Lloyd's List)
Maersk Line will start charging shippers that make manual booking and documentation amendments starting Sept. 1. (Journal of Commerce)
Cargo throughput at the Port of Rotterdam fell 9.1% in the first half of 2020, including a 7.1% drop in container volume. (Port Technology)
Autonomous shipping technology provider Sea Machines Robotics raised $15 million in a Series B funding round. (VentureBeat)
Union Pacific Corp. is calling furloughed employees back to work after rail volumes began improving during the second quarter. (Associated Press)
CSX Corp. second-quarter volumes fell 25% but recovered strongly in June. (Jacksonville Daily Record)
Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. trimmed its operating ratio as cost cuts helped offset a 12% drop in second-quarter volume. (Globe and Mail)
DHL Express will have Boeing Co. convert four 767-300 passenger jets to freighter configuration as it accelerates a capacity expansion. (The Loadstar)
A San Francisco produce-delivery entrepreneur known as "Fruit Jesus" pivoted to home delivery after demand from corporate customers evaporated during lockdown. (SFGate)
Paul Page is editor of WSJ Logistics Report. Follow the WSJ Logistics Report team: @PaulPage , @jensmithWSJ and @CostasParis. Follow the WSJ Logistics Report on Twitter at @WSJLogistics.
Write to Paul Page at firstname.lastname@example.org