Numlock News: May 4, 2021 • AOL, HFC, FCC

By Walt Hickey

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AOL

Verizon sold off a box of miscellaneous odds and ends in a bankers box labeled “AOL and Yahoo” to Apollo Global Management for $5 billion, a steep discount from the grand total of $8.9 billion Verizon paid for the pair of internet companies in 2015 and 2017. Though AOL’s dial-up service has long folded — there were 2.1 million using that service as recently as 2015 —interestingly, AOL continues to have a solid bit of cash flow, as 1.5 million pay $9.99 or $14.99 per month for AOL Advantage, which is sort of a mix of identity theft prevention services and tech support that conservatively brings in $180 million a year in revenue. Given that I am the last person on the planet interested in dunking on a niche subscription service for an extremely specific audience who nevertheless gets something out of it, good for AOL.

Alex Sherman, CNBC

Pork

The USDA has told pork processors that they are returning the speed limit of hog processing lines back down to 2019 levels. In 2019, a new USDA inspection system allowed plants to slaughter hogs faster than the previously-set limit of 1,106 hogs per hour. While that enabled faster production for the plants, worker advocacy groups opposed it given the negative impact that faster lines would have on safety, with workers forced to work faster being more likely to cut themselves and suffer pain in shoulders and arms from faster repetitive motions.

Megan Poinski, Food Dive

Generators

For the first time since 2011’s Fukushima disaster, three mothballed nuclear reactors have been given the go-ahead in Japan to restart. The nation is caught between two problems: one is the unrelenting climate change and need to slash emissions, and the other is deep, sincere skepticism of nuclear energy following the 2011 disaster. The former is beginning to edge out the latter: nuclear power is projected to account for 20 percent of Japan’s electricity mix in 2030, and to hit that about 30 reactors will need to restart. Right now, there are 33 reactors in Japan, nine of which have come back online and 24 of which were decommissioned following 2011. To encourage the reactors — even older ones — to come back online, the government is offering grant money.

Kazuhiro Ogawa, Nikkei Asia

Media Consolidation

Gray Television will acquire 17 television stations from Meredith Corp. for $2.7 billion in one of those under-the-radar media consolidation moves that you never really notice because the companies involved are functionally anonymous, but nevertheless it will have a broad-ranging impact on the corporations that fuel your news. The deal won’t need an FCC waiver: a single entity can own as many local television stations as it wants as long as it doesn’t reach more than 39 percent of U.S. households, and when all’s said and done, Gray will only reach 36 percent of U.S. households, with 101 outlets in 113 markets. The deal will make Gray the second-largest broadcast group by revenue.

Jon Lafayette, Broadcasting+Cable and Cynthia Littleton, Variety

Rental Cars

Prices for used cars at wholesale auctions are up 52 percent compared to a year ago, according to the Manheim Index. Part of that is large rental car companies have taken a nearly unprecedented step of trawling the used car market in order to get cars on the lot, a break from their usual policy of buying direct from manufacturers at a solid discount. Another part of the switch is the semiconductor shortage leading manufacturers to prefer the retail consumer market for new cars, leaving the rental car companies to dive into the used market and push prices up. Overall vehicle production was down 4.6 percent in the first quarter, and it’s the sales to fleet businesses that are absorbing a lot of that: Hyundai’s sales to fleet buyers were down 27 percent in April. Rental car companies are also holding on to vehicles longer: the average rental car up for sale at auction had 79,000 miles on it in April, far higher than the 40,000 miles when the companies typically like to move them off the lot.

David Welch, Bloomberg

Undernourished

According to federal survey data, 76.6 percent of 51- to 70 year old women and 85.6 percent of 51- to 70-year-old men eat less than the recommended amount of vegetables. The thing is that’s actually pretty good compared to teenagers, who really need to eat some greens: fully 98.8 percent of 14- to 18-year-old girls and 98.5 percent of 14- to 18-year-old boys ate less than the recommended amount of vegetables, which is particularly bad developmentally speaking.

Andrea Petersen, The Wall Street Journal

HFCs

The Environmental Protection Agency announced on Monday that hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) — chemicals that are in refrigerators and air conditioners that, unleashed on the atmosphere, are really very bad in terms of greenhouse gases — will be the target of new regulations designed to reduce their use. Over the next 15 years, the aim is to reduce HFC production and imports by 85 percent, and the timing couldn’t be better: demand for air conditioning is skyrocketing worldwide amid rising incomes, and a future for air conditioning absent of HFCs could have a drastic positive impact by 2050, the equivalent of two years of global CO2 emissions simply not happening. The new regulation will cut the equivalent of 4.7 billion metric tons of CO2 by 2036, on par with all the CO2 emitted by U.S. power plants over three years.

Rebecca Hersher, NPR

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