The daily business briefing: August 5, 2020

Novavax on Tuesday announced encouraging results in two preliminary studies of its experimental coronavirus vaccine. The company reached a $1.6 billion deal with the federal government to develop the vaccine, even though it has never brought a vaccine to market before. In one study, the drug appeared to protect monkeys from infection. In the other, 56 human volunteers given the potential vaccine produced high levels of antibodies to fight the virus, without dangerous side effects. “This is the first one I’m looking at and saying, ‘Yeah, I’d take that,'” said Dr. John Moore, a Weill Cornell Medicine virologist who was not involved in the studies. Novavax has said it can produce 100 million doses by the beginning of 2021. The company is one of several racing to develop a vaccine. [The New York Times]

Walt Disney Co. reported Tuesday that its quarterly earnings fell by 40 percent to $11.7 billion as the coronavirus crisis forced the closure of its theme parks. Wall Street had expected the entertainment giant’s earnings to come in at $12.4 billion. With the pandemic continuing, Disney said it would release Mulan on Disney Plus, shifting attention from its disappointing earnings to the promise of the company’s popular new streaming video service. The live-action remake of the Disney animated favorite will be available to stream for a $29.99 rental fee. Disney said it now has 100 million subscribers across its streaming offerings, which include Disney Plus, Hulu, and ESPN+. The company’s shares rose by 5 percent in after-hours trading. [Variety]

Ford announced Tuesday that CEO Jim Hackett is stepping down Oct. 1. The news came after the automaker’s turnaround plan fell short of what investors wanted. Hackett, who dropped most of Ford’s U.S. car production to concentrate on more lucrative and high-selling SUVs and trucks, will be replaced by chief operating officer Jim Farley, who oversaw such recent product updates as the Ford Bronco relaunch. Hackett is leaving more than three years after taking over as CEO. During his tenure he led Ford’s push into smart vehicles. “I am very grateful to Jim Hackett for all he has done to modernize Ford and prepare us to compete and win in the future,” executive chairman Bill Ford said. Ford shares rose by more than 3 percent after the announcement. [Fox Business]

Chinese state media accused President Trump of “open robbery” because of his threat to block TikTok, which has fueled Microsoft’s bid to buy the Chinese social media app’s operations in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. “President Trump is turning the once great America into a rogue country,” said Hu Xijin, editor in chief of the state-backed Global Times. Trump has said he wants to shut down TikTok in the U.S. His administration has accused it of providing data to Beijing, which the company denies. Trump has said he would go along with a Microsoft acquisition, although he said some “key money” would have to go to the Treasury Department for facilitating a deal. [CNBC]

Virgin Atlantic filed for bankruptcy protection on Tuesday as it struggled to survive a sharp decline in travel demand due to the coronavirus pandemic. The airline, which was founded by British entrepreneur Richard Branson, made the filing in New York after a similar proceeding in the United Kingdom. The bankruptcy proceedings are part of a restructuring plan the airline announced last month. Delta Air Lines, which owns 49 percent of Virgin Atlantic, has agreed to defer payment on money it is owed, and Virgin has lined up loans to help it survive in the short term. The company halted flights in April and resumed them in July. Virgin Atlantic primarily operates long-haul flights, including routes between the U.K. and the U.S. [USA Today]

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