Japan slips back into recession, being "Dumb and Dumber" pays and a worldwide chocolate shortage looms. Read about these and more of the morning's top business news stories.
Maybe Jonathan Gruber was on to Something
After a 20-year absence, Lloyd and Harry were welcomed back with open wallets as the rated PG-13 “Dumb and Dumber To” topped the box office in its opening weekend with $38 million. Disney’s “Big Hero 6” dropped to second in its sophomore weekend with $36 million. It is the 85th title in Disney history to surpass $100 million in the United States and Canada. “Interstellar” finished third for the weekend with $29.2 million. Rounding out the top five at the box office were “Beyond the Lights,” which earned $6.5 million, and “Birdman,” which flew into the top five for the first time with $2.5 million.
Japan Slips Back into Recession
Japan’s economy contracted at a real annual rate of 1.6 percent in July-September in a second straight quarterly decline that returned the country to recession, the Associated Press reports. A steep drop in residential investment failed to offset a modest recovery in exports, the government reported. The economy contracted 7.1 percent in April-June after the national sales tax was raised to 8 percent from 5 percent. The decline in July-September represented a 0.4 percent decrease from the previous quarter. Japan emerged from its last recession in late 2012.
Allergan Near Deal with Actavis
Botox manufacturer Allergan, which has been trying to hold off a hostile takeover by Valeant Pharmaceuticals, is poised to make a deal with drugmaker Actavis PLC instead, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday. An agreement in which Actavis would take over Allergan could be announced as early as Monday. Bloomberg reported that Actavis is offering more than $210 a share in cash and stock, valuing the deal at $62.5 billion. Representatives of Actavis and Allergan could not be reached for comment. Besides Botox, the Irvine, CA-based health care company is also known for Restasis, a remedy for dry eyes.
Australia, China Reach Free-Trade Deal
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced his government has successfully completed negotiations after nine years with China, its biggest trading partner, on a free-trade deal. Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to sign the deal Monday after he addresses the Australian Parliament. Under the deal 85 percent of all Australian exports will enter China tariff-free. Australian manufacturers, farmers, miners and the service sector including finance and tourism industries are believed to be among the biggest winners in the agreement.
Napoleon’s Hat Sells for $2.4 Million
A South Korean collector paid $2.4 million at auction for Napoleon’s hat, the president of the Osenat auction house said. The chapeau was expected to sell for $500,000. The French dictator’s hat was owned by Monaco's royal family, who decided to sell it to raise money for palace renovations. Sales prices for other Napoleon memorabilia, such as medals and a pair of socks, were not available at presstime.
This is Nuts! Worldwide Chocolate Shortage Looms
The Washington Post reported over the weekend that two of the world’s largest chocolate makers, Mars and Barry Callebaut, are warning of a worldwide shortage of chocolate.Cocoa—the base ingredient for chocolate—has surged this year by at least 10 percent, on the heels of a 20 percent run up last year. The commodity's surging price, led mostly by surging emerging market demand, has led some analysts to believe chocolate may eventually become a luxury item like champagne. The Post cited data showing the world ate more than 70,000 metric tons of cocoa than it produced in 2013. By 2020, the two major chocolate manufacturers believe that deficit could burgeon to more than a million. Chocolate prices have surged by more than 60 percent since 2012, according to The Post, forcing chocolate makers to hike retail prices. But let’s not get nuts. The Post report included news of efforts to develop trees that can produce up to seven times the amount of cocoa beans.