The first infant formulation of dolutegravir, an important first-line H.I.V. medication, will be available soon under an agreement between several pharmaceutical companies and global health initiatives.
The new formulation will be strawberry flavored and come in a tablet that dissolves in water or juice so babies can swallow it.
In another announcement also linked to World AIDS Day, which occurs every Dec. 1, the International Partnership for Microbicides, which seeks to protect women from H.I.V. infection, said that, after many years of research, the World Health Organization had approved the dapivirine ring, a vaginal insert that has proved effective in women who use it consistently.
Each year, about 160,000 children are newly infected with H.I.V., according to the W.H.O. Most are in Africa and infected at birth or through breastfeeding when their mothers do not realize that they themselves are infected.
About 60 percent of new H.I.V. infections in Africa each year occur among women, according to the W.H.O.
Without testing and treatment, half of those babies will die by age 2, and 80 percent will not reach their fifth birthday. About 80,000 toddlers and young children die each year of AIDS-related illnesses.
Children are hard to treat because many H.I.V. medicines taste bitter, come in pills that infants cannot swallow or are alcohol-based syrups that need refrigeration.
“This is truly an advance,” said Dr. Elaine J. Abrams, chief of pediatrics for ICAP, the global health outreach arm of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and leader of a W.H.O. treatment guidelines panel. “The products currently available for pediatric treatment are less than optimal. There have been a few new formulations, but they haven’t been as successful as anticipated.”
Jessica Burry, a pharmacist with the Doctors Without Borders access campaign, called it “great news that we finally have dolutegravir for children.”
Both experts noted that the new form could not be used until a child is one month old, so a syrup that can be given to newborns is still needed.
Last year, strawberry-flavored “sprinkles” that contained four older H.I.V. drugs, and that could be shaken over cereal or mixed into milk, were introduced for about $365 a year.
The new form of dolutegravir will cost only about $36 a year.
It will be made by Macleods Pharmaceuticals, an Indian company, and Mylan, another generic manufacturer that is now part of a new company called Viatris.
ViiV Healthcare, a partnership created in 2009 by Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline to develop and market H.I.V. drugs, patented dolutegravir (which it sells as Tivicay) in the United States in 2013. It patented the dissolving pediatric form in June; it is working on a syrup for newborns.
The multicompany deal was brokered by the Clinton Health Access Initiative and Unitaid, a Geneva-based global health agency that oversees a “medicines patent pool” through which Western pharmaceutical companies license patents on their new drugs to generic manufacturers eager to serve the large but low-profit markets in poor countries.
The Food and Drug Administration sped up approval of the pediatric form of dolutegravir so it could be purchased by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the program begun by the George W. Bush administration to fight AIDS in poor countries.
Doctors treating children in Africa are excited about having a usable form of the drug, Dr. Abrams said, because it belongs to a new class of antiretrovirals called integrase inhibitors that work well in adults but have been unavailable to children.
Having a drug from a new class is important, because the rise of resistance to one drug from any class — such as fusion inhibitors or reverse transcriptase inhibitors — often creates cross-resistance to all similar drugs.
The ring approved by the W.H.O. is made of flexible silicone and slowly releases tiny amounts of dapivirine, an antiretroviral drug, for about a month. The drug is meant to prevent the virus from infecting vaginal tissue.
The International Partnership for Microbicides, which announced the W.H.O. approval, has sought approval for the ring in the hope that it will be useful in Africa, where most transmission is through heterosexual sex. It does not need refrigeration, and a woman can use it without her partner knowing about it.
In some couples, experts said, when a woman uses an H.I.V.-prevention device or pill, her partner may accuse her of having H.I.V. or of assuming that he does, which may infuriate him. Parents who discover their teenage daughters are using one may also be angered.
In 2016, two major studies of the dapivirine ring found that it was only about 30 percent effective at preventing infection, and follow-up studies found it reduced infection risk by only about 35 percent over all. It failed to do better not because the device didn’t work but because women, especially younger women, did not or could not use it consistently.
In one study, women over age 25 who used it consistently gained better than 60 percent protection.
Finding prevention methods that women can use discreetly has been a major obstacle to beating AIDS in Africa. Tests of pills and vaginal microbicides have failed because women could not use them consistently enough to protect themselves.
The partnership is working on rings that last three months and others that prevent both H.I.V. and pregnancy.
Long-lasting injections and implants, like those that prevent pregnancy, are also being tested.
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Meredith Corporation has parted ways with J.D. Heyman, the editor in chief of Entertainment Weekly magazine, the company confirmed on Monday.
A Meredith spokeswoman said that the end of the editor’s tenure at the publication would go into effect “immediately.” The reason was not disclosed. Mr. Heyman, a former longtime editor at another Meredith-owned publication, People, became the top editor of Entertainment Weekly in June 2019.
“Meredith thanks J.D. for his contributions to the E.W. and People brands over his many years of service,” the spokeswoman said. “A national search is being conducted to fill the role.”
The appointment of Mr. Heyman to the top editorial job at Entertainment Weekly came as the publication cut its print edition from weekly to monthly and shifted much of its focus to its digital media and video. The change came two years after Meredith took ownership of Entertainment Weekly as part of its $2.8 billion purchase of its previous owner, Time Inc., which started the publication in 1990.
Mr. Heyman was previously the deputy editor of People magazine, where he worked for nearly 15 years. He did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Arcadia Group, the British retail company owned by Philip Green that includes the Topshop clothing chain, has gone into administration, a form of bankruptcy, the company said Monday. It is one of the biggest retail collapses in Britain since the start of the pandemic.
Deloitte has been appointed as the administrator. Arcadia, which has 444 stores in Britain, 22 overseas and about 13,000 employees, said it would keep operating during administration.
Ian Grabiner, the chief executive of the group, said in a statement that he had hoped the company could “ride out” the pandemic. “Ultimately, however, in the face of the most difficult trading conditions we have ever experienced, the obstacles we encountered were far too severe,” he added.
No layoffs were announced Monday, but it remained unclear how many jobs could be saved as the administrator deals with the group’s finances.
Arcadia was reportedly seeking a £30 million ($40 million) lifeline, but on Monday the Fraser Group, a retail chain owned by a rival businessman, Mike Ashley, said its offer of a £50 million loan was rejected.
On Friday, Arcadia said lockdowns to curb the spread of coronavirus have had a “material impact” on its business. In recent years, the company has struggled to keep up with fast-fashion online rivals, and its dependency on physical stores has been a disadvantage as the virus has sped up the long-running demise of the British high street.
Earlier this month, during a lockdown period when nonessential stores were forced to close in England, foot traffic on British commercial areas was down 60 percent compared with last year, according to data from Springboard. Since February, online retail sales have grown 45 percent in Britain, while clothing sales — online and in-person — have declined 14 percent, the Office for National Statistics said earlier this month.
Last year, Arcadia entered into a company voluntary arrangement, a type of agreement insolvent companies can come to with creditors and keep operating. It closed more than 80 stores and renegotiated rents of others. It also filed for bankruptcy in the United States and closed all of its stores there.
The collapse of Arcadia is a new low in the career of Mr. Green, who was once deemed the “king of the high street” but has recently been the subject of allegations of racial and sexual harassment. He lives in Monaco, is frequently photographed aboard his 295-foot-long yacht, and used to commute to London in his private jet.
In 2006, Mr. Green was knighted for “services to the retail industry.” But Mr. Green’s reputation was hurt after he sold BHS, a department store chain founded in 1928, for £1 in 2015 and the company collapsed a year later with a pension deficit of £571 million. It prompted a parliamentary investigation, and in 2017 Mr. Green agreed to pay £363 million into the pension scheme.
General Motors and Nikola, a high-profile start-up aiming to produce electric trucks, said on Monday that they had reached an agreement to work together only on hydrogen fuel cells, replacing a broader alliance they originally outlined in September.
The new agreement calls for G.M. to sell fuel-cell technology to Nikola. Gone are provisions for G.M. to take a $2 billion stake in Nikola, and for G.M. to produce an electric pickup truck for the Phoenix-based company. Nikola said it no longer planned to produce that pickup, the Badger.
September’s announcement had lifted Nikola’s stock and investor confidence in the start-up’s ambitious plans to develop heavy trucks powered by hydrogen fuel cells and a national network of fueling stations.
But just days after the Sept. 8 partnership announcement, a small investment firm put out a report asserting that Nikola and its executive chairman, Trevor Milton, had greatly overstated how much technology the company had developed. Later that month, Mr. Milton resigned.
Nikola’s stock was down about 20 percent in morning trading.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
The drugmaker Moderna said it would apply on Monday to the Food and Drug Administration to authorize its coronavirus vaccine for emergency use.
The first injections may be given as early as Dec. 21 if the process goes smoothly and approval is granted, Stéphane Bancel, the company’s chief executive, said in an interview.
Moderna’s application is based on data that it also announced on Monday, showing that its vaccine is 94.1 percent effective, and that its study of 30,000 people has met the scientific criteria needed to determine whether the vaccine works. The finding from the complete set of data is in line with an analysis of earlier data released on Nov. 16 that found the vaccine to be 94.5 percent effective.
The new data also showed that the vaccine was 100 percent effective at preventing severe disease from the coronavirus. The product was developed in collaboration with government researchers from the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Mr. Bancel said the company was “on track” to produce 20 million doses by the end of December, and 500 million to a billion in 2021. Each person requires two doses, administered a month apart, so 20 million doses will be enough for 10 million people.
Moderna is the second vaccine maker to apply for emergency use authorization; Pfizer submitted its application on Nov. 20. Pfizer has said it can produce up to 50 million doses this year, with about half going to the United States. Its vaccine also requires two doses per person.
The first shots of the two vaccines are likely to go to certain groups, including health care workers, essential workers like police officers, people in other critical industries and employees and residents in nursing homes. On Tuesday, a panel of advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will meet to determine how to allocate initial supplies of vaccine.
The hopeful news arrives at a particularly grim moment in the U.S. health crisis. Coronavirus cases have surged and overwhelmed hospitals in some regions, and health officials have warned that the numbers may grow even worse in the coming weeks because of Thanksgiving travel and gatherings. In November alone, there have been more than four million new cases and 25,500 deaths in the United States.
Over all, about 13.3 million Americans have contracted the virus, and more than 265,900 have died. Worldwide, there have been nearly 62 million cases and almost 1.5 million deaths.
More than 70 coronavirus vaccines are being developed around the world, including 11 that, like Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines, are in large-scale trials to gauge effectiveness.
One of those is made by AstraZeneca, which announced positive but puzzling preliminary results on Nov. 23: Its vaccine was 90 percent effective in people who received a half dose and then a full one, but 62 percent effective in those who received two full doses. Researchers are waiting for more data.
Moderna’s application for emergency use authorization will include data from its Phase 3 study of 30,000 people. The application, several hundred pages long, will also include several thousand pages of additional data.
F.D.A. scientists will examine the information, and the application is likely to undergo a final review on Dec. 17 by a panel of expert advisers to the agency, Mr. Bancel said, adding that he expected the advisers to make a decision within 24 to 72 hours. The F.D.A. usually follows the recommendations of its advisory panels.
Officials at Operation Warp Speed, the government’s program to accelerate vaccine development, have said vaccinations could begin within 24 hours after the F.D.A. grants authorization.
A look at all the vaccines that have reached trials in humans.
Mr. Bancel said that Moderna had not yet begun shipping vaccines across the country, and would not do so until the emergency authorization is granted.
The government has arranged to buy vaccines from both Moderna and Pfizer and to provide it to the public free of charge. Moderna has received a commitment of $955 million from the U.S. government’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority for research and development of its vaccine, and the United States has committed up to $1.525 billion to buy 100 million doses.
The Road to a Coronavirus Vaccine
Words to Know About Vaccines
Confused by the all technical terms used to describe how vaccines work and are investigated? Let us help:
Adverse event: A health problem that crops up in volunteers in a clinical trial of a vaccine or a drug. An adverse event isn’t always caused by the treatment tested in the trial.Antibody: A protein produced by the immune system that can attach to a pathogen such as the coronavirus and stop it from infecting cells.Approval, licensure and emergency use authorization: Drugs, vaccines and medical devices cannot be sold in the United States without gaining approval from the Food and Drug Administration, also known as licensure. After a company submits the results of clinical trials to the F.D.A. for consideration, the agency decides whether the product is safe and effective, a process that generally takes many months. If the country is facing an emergency — like a pandemic — a company may apply instead for an emergency use authorization, which can be granted considerably faster.Background rate: How often a health problem, known as an adverse event, arises in the general population. To determine if a vaccine or a drug is safe, researchers compare the rate of adverse events in a trial to the background rate.Efficacy: A measurement of how effective a treatment was in a clinical trial. To test a coronavirus vaccine, for instance, researchers compare how many people in the vaccinated and placebo groups get Covid-19. The real-world effectiveness of a vaccine may turn out to be different from its efficacy in a trial.Phase 1, 2, and 3 trials: Clinical trials typically take place in three stages. Phase 1 trials usually involve a few dozen people and are designed to observe whether a vaccine or drug is safe. Phase 2 trials, involving hundreds of people, allow researchers to try out different doses and gather more measurements about the vaccine’s effects on the immune system. Phase 3 trials, involving thousands or tens of thousands of volunteers, determine the safety and efficacy of the vaccine or drug by waiting to see how many people are protected from the disease it’s designed to fight.Placebo: A substance that has no therapeutic effect, often used in a clinical trial. To see if a vaccine can prevent Covid-19, for example, researchers may inject the vaccine into half of their volunteers, while the other half get a placebo of salt water. They can then compare how many people in each group get infected.Post-market surveillance: The monitoring that takes place after a vaccine or drug has been approved and is regularly prescribed by doctors. This surveillance typically confirms that the treatment is safe. On rare occasions, it detects side effects in certain groups of people that were missed during clinical trials.Preclinical research: Studies that take place before the start of a clinical trial, typically involving experiments where a treatment is tested on cells or in animals.Viral vector vaccines: A type of vaccine that uses a harmless virus to chauffeur immune-system-stimulating ingredients into the human body. Viral vectors are used in several experimental Covid-19 vaccines, including those developed by AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. Both of these companies are using a common cold virus called an adenovirus as their vector. The adenovirus carries coronavirus genes.Trial protocol: A series of procedures to be carried out during a clinical trial.
Both Moderna’s and Pfizer’s vaccines use a synthetic form of genetic material from the coronavirus called messenger RNA, or mRNA, to program a person’s cells to make many copies of a part of the virus. That viral fragment sets off alarms in the immune system and trains it to recognize and attack if the real virus tries to invade.
No mRNA vaccine has reached the market before, and the candidates from Pfizer and Moderna have faced considerable skepticism from scientists and a wary public.
But the strong results from both vaccines have begun to quash the doubts.
So far, neither vaccine has had serious side effects, but many recipients have had headaches, mild fevers, fatigue, joint and muscle aches and sore arms for a day or two.
Of the 30,000 people in the Moderna study, half were vaccinated and half received placebo shots of salt water; neither the participants nor their doctors knew who got what. Then, researchers monitored the participants to see who contracted the coronavirus, and watched for side effects.
To determine statistically whether the vaccine was effective, a total of 151 cases of Covid-19 were needed.
Because the coronavirus has been surging in the United States, Moderna wound up with 196 cases — 185 in the placebo group, and 11 in the vaccinated group, meaning that the vaccine was 94.1 percent effective at preventing Covid-19.
Thirty participants had severe cases, all in the placebo group. One died.
Mr. Bancel said he considered the statistics about prevention of severe disease the most important data from the study.
“This is why I think this vaccine is going to be a game-changer,” he said. The vaccine will reduce hospitalizations and deaths, he added, “and I hope get this country back to its pre-pandemic state.”
Moderna said it was also seeking authorization to market its vaccine in Europe, Canada, Britain, Israel and Singapore.
S&P Global, the owner of stock indexes like the Dow and the S&P 500, said on Monday that it plans to acquire IHS Markit for $44 billion, including debt. The transaction would create a financial information powerhouse at a time when data increasingly fuels automated trading.
The all-stock deal — the biggest announced so far this year — would give S&P Global control of IHS Markit, whose software is used by many of the world’s biggest financial institutions.
It is the latest show of strength by big companies amid the pandemic. Corporate boards have increasingly come to believe that getting bigger will help them ride out the turbulence caused by the coronavirus, while investors have encouraged companies to use stocks and cheap debt to buy growth.
Other big deals struck so far this year include Nvidia’s $40 billion takeover of the computer chip designer Arm and Aon’s $30 billion acquisition of its rival insurance broker Willis Towers Watson.
Financial data has long been one of the most coveted commodities on Wall Street, as demonstrated by the multibillion-dollar value of Bloomberg L.P., the empire of former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.
Big deals in recent years have further illustrated its worth: Last year, the parent of the London Stock Exchange agreed to buy Refinitiv, the former data arm of Thomson Reuters, for $14.5 billion.
IHS Markit itself was the product of a 2016 merger between IHS, which was founded in 1959 as a repository for aerospace data, and Markit, which was created in 2003 as a source of price information about the financial derivatives known as credit-default swaps.
Under the terms of the deal, S&P Global will own nearly 68 percent of the combined company, while investors in IHS Markit will own the remainder.
The companies expect the deal to close in the second half of next year, pending approval from shareholders and antitrust regulators.
Salesforce and the future of remote work
Salesforce has approached Slack about a deal, DealBook hears, confirming a report in The Wall Street Journal. A takeover could be announced as soon as this week. The potential deal is a bet on remote working, an area that bankers tell us will be a hot spot for consolidation in the months ahead, as highly valued software companies look to roll up the fragmented market for collaboration tools.
Work practices may never return to pre-pandemic norms. Or at least that’s the premise behind moves like the one Salesforce is making, with companies hoping to cash in on the shift by assembling a suite of services to make remote working easier. Slack had a market capitalization of about $17 billion before news of the potential deal broke, and it’s now worth around $23 billion. Until the recent pop, it had recorded relatively muted growth in its share price, perhaps because its videoconferencing tools have lagged rivals like Zoom and Microsoft.
Who’s next? Many software companies are riding high with surging stock prices, sitting on large cash piles and able to tap more capital easily if they need to. In addition to Salesforce, bankers say potential buyers include Adobe (which bought Workfront earlier this month), Twilio (purchaser of
PARIS — In recent months, Fabrice Chabance has had plenty to keep him awake at night. Two foreign-owned factories in Saint-Florent-sur-Cher, a region of 11,000 people where he is a political leader, have announced plans to move parts of their production lines to countries with lower labor costs.
Nearly 200 jobs will be lost, a grim blow to his small industrial community in the Loire Valley. Despite efforts by President Emmanuel Macron to lure manufacturing back to France, Mr. Chabance has few illusions that the globalization that has swept jobs away will be reversed any time soon.
“It’s a catastrophe,” said Mr. Chabance, who is worried the layoffs will fuel a broader economic malaise in the area. “The government is calling for a renewal of ‘Made in France.’ But in reality, we are going to be grappling with a stricken industrial region.”
When the coronavirus began sweeping through China and then Europe, disrupting global supply networks, Mr. Macron declared that the pandemic could be “a game changer for globalization.” He said he wanted to create opportunities to secure supply chains and reverse a decades-long trend of companies sending production to low-cost countries.
But the jobs are continuing to leave, as multinational firms relocate production from France to countries with cheaper labor and higher productivity.
At a Bridgestone factory in northern France, over 860 jobs will be cut as the Japanese tire maker moves production to Eastern Europe. Nokia, the Finnish telecommunications company, will relocate some research and development activity from hubs outside Paris and in western France to India and Poland, threatening around 1,000 positions.
In southern France, Zodiac, a maker of inflatable boats, plans to move some production to Tunisia after bringing jobs back from a plant in China just two years ago, citing the need to save money. Other companies are mulling similar moves to rein in costs.
Government officials, led by Bruno Le Maire, the finance and economy minister, have pledged to stop the bleeding and restore job creation. At the heart of the government’s plan is a 1 billion euro ($1.2 billion) program to subsidize jobs at companies that commit to producing pharmaceuticals, electronics and other “strategic” goods on French soil.
“The Covid crisis has brutally highlighted our vulnerabilities and reinforces the urgency to succeed in a policy of industrial reconquest,” Agnès Pannier-Runacher, the secretary of state for economy and finance, said. “France must once again become a great productive nation.”
So far, Ms. Pannier-Runacher said, 31 French companies have won approval to tap 140 million euros in aid to maintain the production of medicines and other goods in France rather than moving them abroad. She said the subsidies would help create around 1,800 jobs, but there was no timeline on when the hiring would start.
Whether the government can succeed in restoring even a fraction of production lost from France over decades is far from clear.
“In the context of the coronavirus, the government has talked about providing aid to bring production back to France, so people think that jobs will be returning,” said El Mouhoub Mouhoud, vice president of the University of Paris-Dauphine and a specialist on globalization. “If anything, companies are continuing to offshore production.”
Despite political pressure, multinational firms that have closed European factories in favor of areas with cheaper labor costs appear hesitant to reverse these moves. A recent survey by the consulting company Ernst & Young found that 37 percent of business leaders were considering bringing manufacturing services back to Europe, down from 83 percent in May. As Asia recovers from the pandemic, businesses have decided “not to cause further disruptions to their supply chain,” Ernst & Young said.
Manufacturing has shrunk to 10 percent of the French economy from over a quarter in the 1960s. From steel mills to auto factories, the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs to globalization has created social distress — and proposals by a succession of politicians to fix it.
Mr. Macron wooed voters during the 2017 presidential campaign by arguing that globalization could be a “great opportunity” if managed correctly. He promoted business-friendly policies as a way to shield France from globalization’s threat.
There were signs that some of his policies had begun to pay off before the pandemic, especially a landmark overhaul of France’s strict labor code to create more flexibility for companies to hire and fire. Such measures helped draw pledges for billions of euros in foreign investment from companies including Coca-Cola and the drug maker AstraZeneca.
ImageCredit…Gonzalo Fuentes/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
But executives say the changes didn’t address one of France’s lingering competitive drawbacks — labor costs that are higher than in other countries, thanks to steep payroll taxes levied to fund the generous social safety net.
At Europhane, a maker of industrial lighting in northern France, the parent company in Austria recently relocated production of a type of light bulb requiring significant labor to Britain, where André Papoular, Europhane’s president, said labor costs were 25 percent cheaper. The bulb, used in streetlamps, represented 20 percent of the value of production at the French site.
Fifty-five of the firm’s 165 industrial workers were laid off, a move that Mr. Papoular said was necessary to prevent the factory from shuttering.
“The paradox in France is that we have a fantastic social security system, but it comes at a cost,” Mr. Papoular said. “The charges imposed on companies are so high that the end result is that the labor cost leads to uncompetitiveness” that allows goods made elsewhere to beat French products on price. “This is what creates the problem,” he said.
As the pandemic whittles profit margins and accelerates losses, companies are likely to continue to look abroad for ways to cut costs, despite the government’s efforts to stem the tide.
“Covid has led to a deterioration in the financial situation of companies,” said Patrick Artus, chief economist of Paris-based Natixis bank. “They will try to improve their profitability and their financial situation, which will lead them to move production to the most attractive countries in terms of labor costs, taxes, regulations and skills.”
France regularly appears at the top of worker productivity comparisons with other European economies. Yet companies with far-flung operations say that output can lag behind lower cost, more productive manufacturing sites, creating another incentive to shift production.
Bridgestone is shuttering its 863-employee factory in Béthune, an industrial town in northern France, after warning for several years that its productivity trailed its other sites in Europe. Union representatives have accused the company of not investing enough to make the plant, which produces tires for small cars, more efficient.
Last year, Bridgestone proposed maintaining jobs at the highly unionized factory if employees agreed to increase their working shifts to 34.7 hours a week from 32 for an additional hour of pay. Unions responded angrily, and over 60 percent of employees rejected it.
This summer, Bridgestone said it would close the plant, citing overcapacity in the European market for small tires. Mr. Macron’s government scrambled to negotiate with the tire maker to keep a portion of production and jobs. But this month, Bridgestone said it could not afford to continue operating the factory at any cost, and would relocate production to Poland, Hungary and other lower-cost sites.
“It’s a question of performance,” a Bridgestone spokesman said of the decision. “The cost of producing tires in Bethune is the highest compared to our other European sites, and the working time per person is weaker,” the spokesman said.
While less than 5 percent of jobs losses in France in recent years have been because of offshoring, Mr. Mouhoud said, such layoffs are easy fodder for populist ire and leave a lasting shock to communities.
In Béthune, one of many cities in northern France that has faced industrial decline, government officials warned of a “brutal” economic and social shock to families, as well as local suppliers and businesses that profited from the factory.
Mr. Chabance is preparing for similar pain in his area of the Loire Valley, after the two foreign-owned factories announced their own offshoring plans.
Rosières, a subsidiary of the Chinese multinational Haier Group that makes home appliances, will shift the manufacturing of one type of oven to its Turkish factory, citing “high assembly costs” in France. The decision will leave 72 people out of work.
Nearby, Comatelec, a maker of urban street lighting products founded by the Belgian manufacturer Schréder, is shedding 100 jobs and moving production to Spain and Ukraine.
For Mr. Chabance, managing the fallout seems a herculean task.
“The domino effect will be huge,” he said. “We’re not just talking about those layoffs, but the job cuts that will come at small firms that supply those companies,” he said. “Two jobs here, three more there — little by little it all adds up.”
As more jobs go, Mr. Chabance said he feared that skilled workers might leave the area in search of more stable employment, placing further stress on the region.
“What is happening here is diametrically opposed to the government’s promises,” Mr. Chabance said.
“We’re going to find ourselves in an industrial wasteland,” he said.
In early February, things were looking good for Practice San Francisco, a center offering individual psychotherapy and classes for children and adults that promote physical and mental well-being. Business was so good that owner Nina Kaiser, a psychologist, had just renovated and moved into a bigger space with the goal of doubling revenue.
Then the coronavirus pandemic hit. In early March, Ms. Kaiser moved all her classes and counseling services online. Fairly quickly, however, video fatigue set in. “After a few weeks, we saw a big downturn in attendance across all our programs, even psychotherapy,” she said. Thus began a period of “endless pivoting and troubleshooting.”
Like many other small businesses, Practice San Francisco, which has been around for three years, has essentially become a start-up again, employing a strategy similar to the “fail fast” approach well-known in start-up culture: A change is made to some aspect of the business and if it works, it sticks, but if it fails, data is collected and something else is tried.
“There has been a lot of flying by the seat of your pants,” Ms. Kaiser said. “We see what doesn’t work, where we run into trouble, and we course-correct. It’s this constant, iterative process.”
That process is crucial right now for small businesses, whose numbers dropped by 22 percent — 3.3 million — between February and April, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.
With Practice San Francisco’s classes being delivered remotely, Ms. Kaiser partnered with a local yoga studio to offer joint programming, increasing both businesses’ visibility and revenue. It worked for a few months and then became problematic. “It wound up being more difficult than I anticipated to combine two communities with different expectations,” she said. Enter the fail-fast approach: The collaboration has been paused and is being reconfigured.
After that, Ms. Kaiser decided to change her class model from drop-in to series-based, keeping a cohort of students together for an entire series. “That builds relationships within the class,” she said. “We are now intentionally focused on building community.” Attendance went from one or two people per class to between eight and 15. And once it became clear the pandemic would not be short, demand for remote psychotherapy began increasing. Despite the pandemic-related challenges, Ms. Kaiser projects that 2020 revenue will be up 50 percent.
ImageCredit…Michelle Gustafson for The New York Times
The Greater Knead, a gluten-and-allergen-free bagel company in Bensalem, Pa., also was poised for a good year in 2020. The eight-year-old company, whose bagels are sold in bagel shops and supermarkets, had finally turned a profit, with just under $1 million in revenue. In February, sales were up 20 percent and the business was on track to have its best year yet, said the owner, Michelle Carfagno.
But in early March, sales dropped steeply, as stores closed and customers stayed home. Supermarkets began running out of the Greater Knead’s bagels and they didn’t reorder, focused instead on stocking items like toilet paper and cleaning supplies. By May, revenue was down 60 percent. A small bright spot, however, was web sales, which were slowly increasing. Ms. Carfagno decided to capitalize on that and invested in social media advertising, something she had not done before, to drive traffic to her website. Now that people were staying home, they were seeking the Greater Knead’s bagels online, and she wanted to make sure they could find them.
“Before the pandemic people learned of us through word of mouth, store signage and in-store demonstrations,” she said. “All of that was gone.”
ImageCredit…Michelle Gustafson for The New York Times
Soon after, Ms. Carfagno decided to work with a West Coast fulfillment center, enabling her to ship nationwide, something she had not considered before because of the high cost of shipping frozen bagels. It turned out to be a smart move: By September, web sales were up 250 percent. “We now see this as an opportunity to have a direct relationship with customers,” Ms. Carfagno said.
She abandoned a planned move this fall to a bigger facility and decided instead to change the physical layout of her manufacturing space to increase efficiency. She also invested in automation, purchasing a state-of-the-art bagel-making machine as well as a packaging machine, which will vacuum seal the bagels, eliminating the need to freeze them for shipping. Ms. Carfagno projects that revenue for 2020 will be about 5 percent higher than last year. It’s not the 20 to 30 percent she had expected, but the changes she has made — and will keep making — have helped her in ways she hadn’t anticipated.
“We are so much more efficient now,” she said. “And because we have consumers buying directly from us, it’s much lower cost to launch a new product. We are looking at other things we could be selling, possibly a whole line of gluten-free baked goods.”
ImageCredit…Michelle Gustafson for The New York Times
Anthony Casalena, founder and chief executive of Squarespace, a website building and hosting company with more than 2.5 million customers, the majority of which are small businesses, sees an increasing willingness among these businesses to try new strategies, including fostering a more direct online relationship with their customers. “Companies creating new websites on our platform, and email marketing campaigns, are at an all-time high,” he said. “And e-commerce sales on our platform have doubled.”
Before the pandemic, Seattle-based Snapbar, which created custom selfie stations and photo booths for events, was the kind of company that did business over the phone and in person. Its staff members in five cities would set up “luxe photo booths” at events like weddings and charitable galas. Snapbar also shipped “selfie stands” — easy-to-set-up photo booths that use an LED light and an iPad — for use at sporting and corporate events. At the start of 2020, the eight-year-old company was on track to more than double its 2019 revenue, which was $3.2 million.
But by mid-March, Snapbar had lost all its business, and operating remotely was not an option. During a night of panicked insomnia, Sam Eitzen, its co-founder and chief executive, came up with 50 ideas for “pivots, changes, adaptations and reinventions.” Eventually he and his brother and co-founder, Joe Eitzen, settled on Keep Your City Smiling, a direct-to-consumer site that would sell gift boxes filled with items from local small businesses in a particular city. “We didn’t rebrand ourselves or shut down Snapbar, we just built something new,” Sam Eitzen said.
In its first three months, Keep Your City Smiling earned $500,000 in revenue, with 50 to 60 percent going back to the small businesses whose products were included in each box. But as the pandemic wore on, orders plummeted and Mr. Eitzen shifted its focus again, this time from consumer to corporate gift giving. That enabled Keep Your City Smiling to stay afloat, but it did not generate enough revenue to sustain Snapbar.
During this period, however, Snapbar’s director of engineering had been intensely working on developing a product he believed could save the company: a virtual photo booth. “Most corporate virtual events feel like lectures or webinars,” Sam Eitzen said. “We create a custom-designed and branded photo booth that lives in a link on the event’s site. So an attendee is still consuming information, but they can also engage in another way, taking a selfie at the event and posting it on Instagram.”
This pivot transformed Snapbar into a tech company. The virtual photo booth is now the fastest-growing product it has ever had. And revenue — after the company nearly went under — is projected to be $2 million this year.
“My brother and I really struggled with this big question,” Sam Eitzen said. “After eight years of working so hard, is it better for us to put all of our savings on the line again? Or do we cut our losses and let the team go? But we really love the people we work with. And that’s why we stayed in it.”
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Almost one year to the day after a deadly volcanic eruption killed 22 people on New Zealand’s White Island, the country’s workplace safety regulator has charged 13 parties for their roles in the disaster.
In a televised address on Monday, Phil Parkes, the chief executive of the regulator, WorkSafe, said that the parties — including organizations, government agencies and three individuals — had fallen short of their obligations and would face charges in court.
“This deeply tragic event was unexpected, but that does not mean it was unforeseeable, and there is a duty on operators to protect those in their care,” Mr. Parkes said. “The victims — both workers and visitors — all had a reasonable expectation that they could go to the island knowing that those organizations involved had done all they were required to do to look after their health and safety.”
The organizations face criminal charges with maximum fines of 1.5 million New Zealand dollars, about $1 million, while the three individuals face charges as officers of a company and maximum fines of about $210,000 for their roles in the disaster. The first hearing is scheduled for Dec. 15.
The charges are unusual: Under the government-run system of no-fault accident compensation, known as the Accident Compensation Corporation scheme, people in New Zealand generally have little legal recourse in the event of an accident caused by negligence, no matter how serious the event.
Though the 13 entities have not been publicly named by WorkSafe, two government agencies, GNS Science and the National Emergency Management Agency, have confirmed they are among those charged. GNS Science monitors volcanic activity.
The volcano, also known by its Maori name, Whakaari, erupted on Dec. 9 last year. At the time, 47 people, including tour groups and their guides, were on the island, seeking a glimpse of the raw edge of New Zealand’s geological activity. Those caught in the disaster included children and retirees.
In the wake of the catastrophe, some asked why these tourists had been allowed to visit the site of an active volcano. Volcanologists had long warned that White Island might be a disaster waiting to happen, while GeoNet, the agency that monitors geological activity in New Zealand, had reported increased activity in the weeks leading up to the eruption, raising its warning level to 2 out of a possible 5.
Tours to the remote island have since been suspended, despite calls to resume them under new safety protocols.
At the time of the eruption, tours were run under a deal between the family that owns the island and a few operators, falling under the jurisdiction of so-called adventure activities regulations that require a safety audit for companies that “deliberately expose the participant to a serious risk to his or her health and safety that must be managed by the provider of the activity.”