Welcome to The Closing Bell. This is your last stop for biz scoops and big news before the weekend — a roundup of stories that can’t wait till Monday.

Stock market plunges again; Dow off 10 percent from its all-time high

The Dow fell more than 1,000 points Thursday. | Courtesy of Yahoo Finance

Stocks plunged further on Thursday, with the Dow Jones industrial average officially entering correction territory, having fallen more than 10 percent from its all-time high. The combined value of three Louisville companies — Humana, Brown-Forman and Yum Brands — has fallen more than $6 billion in the last week.

The Dow on Thursday was down more than 700 points in midafternoon, then rose slightly before falling sharply to end the trading day down more than 1,000 points. That’s on top of declines of more than 1,800 points from Friday and Monday — though the index had bounced back on Tuesday, rising nearly 600 points.

At its close on Thursday, the Dow had declined 2,765 points, or more than 10.3 percent, since Jan. 26. A stock market correction, which is not uncommon during bull markets, is a decline of 10 percent or more over a period of more than one day. A crash is a decline of 10 percent in one day.

Since Thursday’s close, shares of Yum have fallen more than 9 percent, Brown-Forman’s have fallen nearly 8 percent, and Humana’s stock price is down 6.2 percent.

In total, the market cap of the three companies has declined by more than $6.2 billion since Thursday. The value of Humana and Yum each has fallen about $2.5 billion. —Boris Ladwig

Humana report fails to impress investors

Humana’s fourth-quarter results didn’t impress investors. The company’s shares fell 1.6 percent Wednesday — more than three times the loss incurred by the S&P 500 — after the Louisville-based insurer said that it had generated an adjusted quarterly profit of $2.06 per share, down 12 percent from a year earlier.

Humana adjusted earnings for both quarters to remove, among other things, the impact of costs and benefits related to its failed merger with Aetna.

Humana also said that it expected adjusted earnings this year of about $13.75 per share, up about 17.5 percent from last year. The increase will come, in part, from the recently passed federal tax law, which reduced the corporate tax rate.

Humana said that the law would lift its EPS by about $4 this year, and that it would pass on about half that gain to shareholders and would spend the other half on employees and communities.

Humana in mid-January had announced that it would use a portion of the tax cut gain to move up, by one year, the payouts for employees participating in its performance-based incentive program and to increase the minimum hourly wage rate in the continental U.S. for full- and part-time employees to $15.

However, the company could not be reached to say what the current minimum wage is or how many employees would be affected by the raise and the accelerated bonus program.

Humana on Wednesday also said that it would speed up it investments in technology and operational processes to get consumers more involved in health-related activities, to improve clinical outcomes and to “make health care and coverage more affordable.” —Boris Ladwig

Yum Brands invests in GrubHub to rapidly expand its delivery service

Yum Brands announced a partnership with GrubHub. | Courtesy of BusinessWire

In an effort to bolster delivery service at KFC and Taco Bell locations in the United States, Louisville-based Yum Brands has invested $200 million in delivery service GrubHub in the form of a common stock purchase.

Yum Brands, which has for years offered delivery at KFC stores in China, stated this time last year that it wanted to offer delivery at KFC and Taco Bell but was still working on the right way to transport it. Nearly half of Yum Brands’ 45,000 restaurants offer online ordering with pickup or delivery options, according to a news release. It is unclear if that includes Pizza Hut stores.

“This partnership will rapidly expand KFC and Taco Bell’s ability to offer online ordering for both pickup and delivery to our customers in all existing U.S. GrubHub markets, with many more to come,”  Yum Brands CEO Greg Creed said in a call with analysts Thursday. “Making it easy to access all of our brands is important and the partnership with GrubHub is a key component of making our brands distinctive, relevant and easy.”

Offering delivery will boost the restaurant company’s profitability, Yum Brands leaders stated.

As part of the deal with GrubHub, Yum Brands will also get a seat on its board of directors, which is expanding from nine to 10 members. Pizza Hut U.S. President Artie Starrs will fill the newly created board seat.

Yum Brands announced the partnership the same day it released its year-end earnings for 2017. The company reported an 8 percent dip in revenue, to $5.9 billion in 2017, compared to 2016, and an 18 percent drop in net income, to $1.3 billion, during the year.

Same-store sales across all three of Yum’s brands rose 2 percent in 2017 compared to 2016. Same-store sales at Pizza Hut remained even, while Taco Bell and KFC saw 4 percent and 3 percent increases in same-store sales, respectively.

Yum Brands’ stock closed at $76.27, a decline of 4.8 percent. The Nasdaq, the market Yum Brand’ stock trades on, was down 3.9 percent Thursday.  —Caitlin Bowling

Local startup to present at national conference

Local startup findCRA, which uses technology to connect banks and nonprofits, recently celebrated five years in business, after a year that saw the company secure more venture capital, update its business strategy and expand its geographic footprint.

The company last year also received accolades including an Inc. Credible Award from Greater Louisville Inc.

Next month, the company will present its business to more than 1,000 industry professionals at the National Interagency Community Reinvestment Conference in Miami.

FindCRA helps connect nonprofits seeking support with banks looking to invest in their communities to comply with the Community Reinvestment Act. The CRA, a federal law from 1977 passed to end discriminatory credit practices, requires that depository institutions help meet the credit needs of their communities, especially in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods.

The company last year introduced an online search tool that helps banks reach out to nonprofits, and a proprietary algorithm, called CRANIA, which “uses public government data to identify the right nonprofits for banks to work with in their communities,” the company said in a news release.

“Over the last five years, it has been rewarding to not only build our company, but to collaborate with so many amazing banks, nonprofits and other industry thought leaders throughout the country,” President Brian Waters said in the release. “We’re excited for what the future holds.”

Waters co-founded the business with Ben Loehle, who serves as the company’s CEO. —Boris Ladwig

Long John Silver’s gearing up for busy Lenten season

Long John Silver’s new look | Courtesy of Long John Silver’s

In 2017, sales at Louisville-based fast-food fish restaurant Long John Silver’s rose 84 percent on average during Fridays in Lent compared to other Fridays in the year.

The restaurant historically sees its biggest jumps in sales on Ash Wednesday and the first Friday in Lent. Sales rose 130 percent on Ash Wednesday and 107 percent on the first Friday last year. The company sold more than two million pounds of seafood during the 40-day Lenten season in 2017, according to Long John Silver’s.

The company said it expects even more improvement in sales this year as it has introduced new items such as grilled salmon tacos and basmati rice bowls and continues to modernize some of its restaurant locations. Restaurants with the new look have reported double-digit sales growth, according to Long John’s Silvers.

Long John’s Silvers is a privately held company, and roughly 90 percent of its locations are franchisee-owned. —Caitlin Bowling

Kentucky lands on Lonely Planet’s ‘Top 10 Travel Destinations in the U.S.’ list

Kentucky sits at spot No. 8.

On its annual “Top 10 Travel Destinations in the United States” list that was recently released, Lonely Planet placed Kentucky’s Bourbon Country at spot No. 8, situated right in between Richmond, Va., and Minneapolis.

Hey, we even beat out Southeastern Utah, which took spot No. 10.

Lonely Planet is a travel media authority that puts together guides, tips and suggestions for travelers at home and abroad. This is its eighth year publishing the “Best of the U.S.” list, which is put together by travel experts and staff, and it’s meant to showcase underrated, off-the-beaten-path types of places and experiences.

Here’s what they had to say about Kentucky:

The state of Kentucky is known for its rolling hills topped with stately horse farms, its fierce devotion to college basketball and, most importantly, its bourbon. The state’s distilling heritage runs deep, and those looking for a taste should head straight to Kentucky Bourbon Country, the golden triangle between Louisville, Lexington and Elizabethtown where this seasoned spirit comes to life. You’ll find an enticing network of the country’s most well-known distilleries and top-notch restaurants with bourbon-inspired menus.

The write-up also name-dropped the Frazier History Museum as being the “official starting point” for the Kentucky Derby Trail.

If you’re curious, the No. 1 spot went to California’s Redwood Coast, and Cincinnati somehow sneaked on there at No. 5. —Sara Havens

In Brief

ABDD Capital and Orangewood Partners have partnered to acquire 24 Taco Bell locations in the Louisville area. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but ABDD Capital will oversee management of the stores.

The Small Business Administration said its Emerging Leaders initiative is open for recruitment locally at the SBA Kentucky District Office. The program is for entrepreneurs poised for growth in emerging markets. Since 2008, the initiative has trained over 5,000 small business owners in the U.S., creating 6,500 jobs, generating over $300 million in new financing and securing over $3.16 billion in government contracts, SBA said.



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