Top international headlines: Americans and Facebook becoming richer

Americans emerge richer from the pandemic, Facebook’s market value rises, and more.

Facebook shares jump on news of lawsuit dismissal, a frenzy of mergers and acquisitions are noted on the global stage, while PepsiCo makes plans to cut down on the sweet stuff. Meanwhile, the infamous American box office stages a Fast and Furious comeback after more than a year of lacklustre performance brought on by Covid-19.

Americans saw an increase in wealth during pandemic recession
The Covid-19 pandemic plunged Americans into recession, but instead of emerging poorer, many came out ahead.

US households added $13.5 trillion (R193.21 trillion) in wealth last year, according to the Federal Reserve, the biggest increase in records going back three decades.

Americans across the board paid off credit card debt, saved more and refinanced to cheaper mortgages. That challenged the conventions of previous economic downturns. In 2008, for example, US households lost $8 trillion (R114.50 trillion), reports The Wall Street Journal.

Facebook joins the trillion tech club
Facebook’s market value this week rose above $1 trillion for the first time, with shares jumping as much as 4.4 percent, after a judge granted Facebook’s request to dismiss the complaints filed last year by the US Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general.

Shares at the social networking service gained 29 percent this year, with the pandemic increasing public reliance on Facebook’s apps for staying in touch with friends and businesses, leading to steady growth in users and strong demand for digital advertisements.

Almost three years after Apple became the first US company to reach the $1 trillion (R14.31 trillion) milestone, there are now four other American technology companies that boast 13-digit valuations including Microsoft, Amazon.com and Google parent Alphabet, reports Bloomberg. Microsoft recently reached the $2 trillion (R28.62 trillion) mark.

F9 opens box office doors
The latest instalment of the Fast & Furious Franchise, F9, has taken the box office by storm and drawn audiences back to the cinema in numbers not seen since early 2020.

The feature from Comcast Corp’s Universal Pictures generated $70 million (R1001.84 million) in weekend ticket sales, according to researcher Comscore, higher than the industry estimate of $67 million (R958.90 million), walloping the current largest film debut during pandemic times.

The result amounts to an average opening weekend for a movie in the Fast & Furious series, but still thrilled cinema owners and studios, which have been starved of new big-budget films for 15 months, reports Bloomberg.

Cheap borrowings, big deals
Global mergers and acquisitions activity broke records for a second consecutive quarter this year as companies continued to borrow cheaply and spend their cash reserves on transformative deals to reposition themselves for the post-Covid-19 world, reports Reuters.

Deals worth $1.5 trillion (R 21.41 trillion) were announced in the three months to 30 June, more than any second quarter on record and up 13 percent from the record first quarter of the year, Refinitiv data shows.

PepsiCo targets health-conscious consumers
PepsiCo plans to reduce sugar content in sodas and iced teas by 25 percent in the European Union and launch more nutritious snacks by 2025, to attract more health-conscious consumers in its second-biggest market.

With an eye on making healthy snacks its fastest growing food category over the next four years, PepsiCo is aiming for a more than 10-fold increase in sales by 2025 and expanding it to a $1 billion (R14.27 billion) portfolio by 2030, reports Reuters.