Shake Shack said it was returning a $10 million loan from a federal program to help small businesses amid mounting criticism that large chains had been favored over smaller operators in the program’s rollout to the restaurant industry.
The $349 billion stimulus effort, which was distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis, was exhausted in just two weeks, with many loans favoring larger companies that were better able to navigate the application process. Major chains like Potbelly and Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse were able to secure tens of millions of dollars in loans while other owners were left scrambling to survive the deepening financial crisis.
Shake Shack, with 189 outlets and nearly 8,000 employees in the United States, said on Sunday that it would return the $10 million in funds it had received, after securing additional capital through an equity transaction on Friday.
But the return of those funds may come too late for the thousands of independent restaurateurs across the United States who are searching for a lifeline to survive the coronavirus pandemic.
The National Restaurant Association on Monday asked congressional leaders to create a recovery fund for the restaurant industry. In the letter, the trade association said that eight million restaurant employees had been laid off or furloughed and that the industry had lost $30 billion since March, with another $50 billion expected to disappear by the end of April.
“The restaurant industry has been the hardest hit by the coronavirus mandates — suffering more sales and job losses than any other industry in the country,” the letter said. “For an industry with sales that exceed the agriculture, airline, railroad, ground transportation, and spectator sports industries combined, a restaurant relief and recovery program is desperately needed.”
On Monday, Congress and the Trump administration were moving toward a deal to replenish funds for the small-business loans program, known as the Paycheck Protection Program. The $450 billion spending deal being discussed would also provide additional funds for hospitals and testing.
But lawmakers and the administration have struggled to break an impasse over the funds, after Democrats insisted on coupling the infusion to the program with other provisions to counter the impact of the pandemic.
Oil plummets as storage capacity starts to run low.
Oil prices fell sharply on Monday on growing concerns that oil storage tanks in the United States, especially in the crucial site of Cushing, Okla., are not far from their limits.
The price of the main U.S. benchmark, West Texas Intermediate, plummeted by almost 40 percent on Monday to under $11 a barrel.
Under futures contracts, West Texas Intermediate is delivered to Cushing but investors are worried that there will be no place to put it there.
“Cushing inventories continue to increase at record-high rates and are expected to hit tank tops in May,” said Hillary Stevenson, director, oil markets, at Genscape a market intelligence firm.
Analysts said the price was also being hit because the current futures trading contract, which is used to set the trading price for oil, will expire on Tuesday and so investors have little interest in buying it. The next futures contract for West Texas Intermediate — the June contract — was trading considerably higher.
Broader worries also growing that the deal reached on April 12 between the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Russia and other producers will not be sufficient to prevent the oil markets being overwhelmed with a record surge of surplus oil. With much of the world in lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic, global demand for oil has collapsed, leading to record surpluses.
The numbers explain why investors are worried. Under the terms of the arrangement brokered by President Trump, Saudi Arabia, Russia and other countries to cut will cut 9.7 million barrels a day in production, beginning in May. Analysts forecast that oil consumption in April will fall by about three times that.
“It is not enough” to avoid inventories rapidly building up, said Bjornar Tornhaugen, head of oil markets at Rystad Energy, a consulting firm.
On Monday, Halliburton, which provides equipment and services to energy companies, gave an early indication of the damage being sustained by the industry when it reported a $1 billion loss in the first quarter compared with net income of $152 million in the same period a year earlier.
Oil companies will either have to turn the taps off or see storage rise to tank-busting levels. David Fyfe, chief economist at Argus Media, a commodities pricing firm, expects tank farms around the globe to fill to the brim by the middle of May.
Richard Branson offers to put up his private island as collateral.
Sir Richard Branson pleaded publicly with the British government on Monday for taxpayer support of his Virgin Airlines, and even suggested that he would put up his private Caribbean island as collateral.
In a blog post, Mr. Branson noted that Virgin Atlantic employees had already agreed to reduce their wages for eight weeks, but added that the airline would need help from the British taxpayers. “Without it, there won’t be any competition left and hundreds of thousands more jobs will be lost, along with critical connectivity and huge economic value,” he wrote.
The plea came days after The Financial Times reported that government officials had told Virgin Atlantic to resubmit its request for a package of commercial loans and guarantees worth 500 million pounds, or $622 million. The newspaper added that the government was concerned the carrier had not exhausted other fund-raising options before asking for public support.
The post was also published after critics noted that Mr. Branson’s personal net worth is about $4.4 billion, and that his primary residence is Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands, long known for its low tax rates. But Mr. Branson argued that his net worth was tied up in his ownership of Virgin companies, instead of cash in a bank account.
Wall Street internships won’t be the same this year.
With much of New York City on lockdown, many college seniors have a new anxiety: what will happen to their much-coveted Wall Street internships? Today’s DealBook newsletter has the rundown of what several big financial firms are doing.
Many are pushing back their start dates, with Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase all delaying their internships to July 6, from June. All three banks told interns that they would still be paid for the entirety of the nine to 10 weeks that their programs were scheduled to run.
Some are going virtual. Morgan Stanley has told incoming interns that most of its program this year will be held online. After receiving notice that JPMorgan was making its internship program virtual, one poster on the Wall Street Oasis forum wrote, “R.I.P. to all those shirts and pants I bought.”
Most importantly, Citi gave its intern class extra reassurance that one element of its summer internship program remained unchanged: Interns in New York, London, Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo will still receive full-time job offers upon graduation, as long as they meet the minimum requirements of the internship program.
United Airlines lost more than $2 billion in the first quarter, a decline driven by the virtual stalling of the global airline industry in March, the company said in a securities filing on Monday.
The carrier said that it expected to receive access to a $4.5 billion loan from the Treasury Department under the economic relief law passed several weeks ago. United had already received about $5 billion from the federal government, mostly in grants intended to pay employees through September.
If United decides to draw down the loan, in exchange it will have to provide the Treasury with warrants giving it the right to buy stock in the company, as it already did for a portion of the funds to pay workers. The new warrants would allow the government buy a $450 million chunk of United, or 14.2 million shares at a price of $31.50 each.
In the first quarter, United earned $8 billion in revenue, a 17 percent decline from last year. The carrier also said it had $6.3 billion in cash on hand, including about $2 billion in undrawn credit.
The airline has cut its schedule by 80 percent in April and expects to cut it by 90 percent in May and June.
Wall Street claws back some early losses in day of unsteady trading.
Stocks were lower Monday, but pared their losses as lawmakers in Washington signaled they were making progress on a new deal to fund a small-business loan program and shares of technology companies rallied.
The S&P 500 was down by about 0.3 percent at midday, after having fallen nearly 2 percent earlier in the day. The tech-heavy Nasdaq index rose slightly.
Technology stocks have been rallying lately, in part because companies like Amazon and Netflix are seen as able to profit from stay-at-home orders and as consumers pullback on spending elsewhere. Netflix, which will report its quarterly earnings results later this week, rose nearly 4 percent on Monday.
The tech rally helped offset a slump in shares of energy companies, which followed crude oil prices lower.
Also helping temper the early losses were expectations that Congress and the White House were close to approving a $450 billion spending deal aimed at small businesses. Continued effort to bolster the economy, reopen businesses, and contain the pandemic have helped lift stocks from the depths of their collapse in March.
In recent days, though, stocks have settled into a middle zone: far from the low levels that clearly signaled a bear market, but not conclusively blossoming into a new bull market either.
“You could almost argue that we’re in a bull market and a bear market at the same time,” said Eddie Perkin, the chief equity investment officer at Eaton Vance, a Boston-based money manager.
Millions of people are wondering about refunds from airlines, concert venues and learning institutions. For the 22 million people who have filed for unemployment benefits, it is probably a simple matter: You take absolutely everything back that you possibly can. Ditto for those who face a large imminent decline in income.
But for consumers who are not yet desperate, it quickly gets complicated.
Some companies that already have your money are not very sympathetic. Take airlines: Some of the large carriers are of strategic importance to the economy, and this week they received their bailout. Yet even as they knew that they would almost certainly get their hands on our tax money, many held customers’ money hostage.
Ticketmaster put itself back in consumers’ cross hairs by making it look like they could get their money back only if shows were canceled instead of postponed. The company now says that it was all a big misunderstanding and that most people can get their money in a month or two.
Vrbo, which relies equally on the hosts who make properties available and the guests who rent them, split things down the middle, asking guests to accept as little as 50 percent back from hosts, if they could not find alternate dates.
Every refund request means weighing your household’s economic uncertainty against the perhaps equally precarious status of any given person or place that has your money but can’t deliver on all its promises. There is no rule book for these decisions.
Catch up: Here’s what else is happening.
Tapestry, the owner of Coach, Kate Spade and Stuart Weitzman, said on Monday that it would extend salary and benefits to most North American retail employees through May 30. The company will also cut 2,100 part-time associates across the three brands starting April 25, and give them a $1,000 one-time payment “to reduce the financial burden of this action.” Tapestry said that all of its stores in mainland China had now reopened.
The Australian government said on Monday that Google and Facebook would have to pay media outlets for news content in the country, part of an emerging global effort to rescue local publishers by moving to compel tech giants to share their advertising revenue.
Reporting was contributed by Michael de la Merced, David Yaffe-Bellany, Niraj Chokshi, Carlos Tejada, Austin Ramzy, Adam Satariano, Sapna Maheshwari, Jason Karaian, Ron Lieber, Ben Casselman, Jim Tankersley and Kevin Granville.