President Obama will head to Hanover, Germany, in late April to attend a trade fair, part of the administration’s push to secure a European trade deal before he leaves office, the White House announced Wednesday.
Obama will participate in the Hannover Messe, the world’s largest trade show for industrial technology, and will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during his visit. Administration officials are hoping to make progress on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), negotiations between the United States and the European Union that have taken a back seat to the recently forged Trans-Pacific Partnership. That trade deal encompasses a dozen Pacific Rim countries, including the United States. It remains unclear whether negotiators can conclude TTIP talks during Obama’s final year in office.
The goal of the talks is to eliminate tariffs completely between the United States and the European Union, which together generate more than a third of the world’s GDP, and harmonize regulations on a range of goods and services.
Obama’s visit to the Hannover Messe, which was founded nearly 70 years ago and draws nearly 6,500 exhibitors and 200,000 visitors from around the world, is the first for a sitting American president. It will mark his fifth trip to Germany.
In a statement, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the event “presents an unique opportunity to showcase American innovation and ingenuity and to highlight the United States as a prime investment destination.”
Even as Obama consults with European leaders, however, he will be stepping up his outreach to key Asian nations next year. The president is hosting the first-ever U.S. summit with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, Calif., on Feb. 15 and 16.
— Juliet Eilperin
Pep Boys agreed to be acquired by Carl Icahn for more than $1 billion after Bridgestone backed down from a bidding war with the billionaire investor.
The auto-parts chain said Wednesday that it terminated a merger pact with Bridgestone and signed a definitive agreement to be bought by Icahn Enterprises for $18.50 a share. Icahn’s investment firm also will pay Bridgestone a $39.5 million termination fee on behalf of Pep Boys.
Icahn’s aggressive bidding reflects optimism in the auto-parts retailing industry, which stands to benefit from an aging vehicle fleet on American roads. Both Icahn Enterprises and Bridgestone were seeking to expand their presence in the tire and repair sector by adding Pep Boys’ 800 locations across more than 30 states.
Icahn plans to combine Pep Boys with the Auto Plus chain, which he acquired this year. Analysts have speculated that Icahn may be interested only in Pep Boys’ retail operation and could sell the tire and services division to other interested parties — one of which could be Bridgestone, which operates more than 2,200 tire and automotive centers in the United States.
— Bloomberg News
● Apple will pay Italy’s tax office 318 million euros ($348 million) to settle a dispute over allegations that it failed to pay taxes for six years, a source with direct knowledge of the matter said Wednesday. The maker of iPhones and iPads will also sign an accord next year on how to manage its tax liabilities from 2015 onward, the source said. The tax office earlier confirmed a report in La Repubblica newspaper that it had reached a deal with Apple but declined to say how much the U.S. company had agreed to pay. Apple could not immediately be reached for comment. Previously, the company told Reuters that it is one of the largest taxpayers in the world and paid every euro of tax it owed wherever it did business.
● ConocoPhillips will supply the first cargo of U.S. shale oil to be exported since a 40-year ban on such shipments was lifted this month. ConocoPhillips said the cargo will be comprised of crude and a type of ultra-light oil known as condensate from wells in the Eagle Ford Shale formation in South Texas, according to a statement by the Houston-based company. The cargo will be sold to merchant trader Vitol Group.
● Weight Watchers International shares surged almost 30 percent after Oprah Winfrey debuted a video campaign Tuesday endorsing the weight-loss program. The celebrity and media mogul posted a video to her Twitter account about using Weight Watchers to lose weight. “Are you ready?” she asks in the clip. “Let’s do this together.” The video renewed investor optimism that Winfrey can help turn around the long-struggling company. Winfrey announced her partnership with Weight Watchers in October, saying she would buy 10 percent of the stock and join the board. Weight Watchers climbed 23 percent Wednesday, to $23.78, in its biggest intraday jump since Nov. 6. That follows a 7 percent gain on Tuesday, when Winfrey posted the video.
● Airbus Group postponed the first delivery of its A320neo model airliner by at least several weeks as it addresses issues with documentation for the aircraft, adding to the woes for the single-aisle plane that constitutes the majority of the company’s production. The delayed delivery to Deutsche Lufthansa comes about a week after Indian airline IndiGo disclosed that it had been told its first jet would be late and three weeks after Qatar Airways, originally set to be the first customer, put back deliveries, citing engine issues. Airbus had wanted to start deliveries of A320neos before the end of 2015.
— From news services
● 8:30 a.m. Labor Department releases weekly jobless claims.
● 10 a.m. Mortgage company Freddie Mac releases weekly mortgage rates.