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Walmart has a plan to sell more furniture online

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Walmart is offering its first glimpse of a redesigned Walmart.com, starting in the home department.

The big-box retailer is preparing to roll out a revamped portion of its website, dedicated to home goods and furnishings. The experience will officially go live within the next few weeks, Walmart said Thursday. The move takes aim at Target, which has been investing heavily in its exclusive home brands; Amazon, which has been doing more of the same; and furniture companies like Wayfair, Stanley Furniture, Ikea and La-Z-Boy.

A new page on Walmart.com, dubbed “All Things Home,” will feature collections of furniture that are grouped by trends and put together by in-house stylists. Shoppers will be able to choose from nine styles: modern, midcentury, traditional, glam, industrial, bohemian, farmhouse, transitional and Scandinavian. The page will also offer design tips.

“Over the past year, we’ve nearly doubled our home assortment and introduced a wide variety of furniture and home decor items, like a new Scandinavian line of furniture for kids and refreshed assortment of modern furniture,” said Anthony Soohoo, senior vice president of Walmart’s e-commerce home division. “Now, it is going to be that much easier for customers to shop these items and more.”

Walmart’s head of e-commerce, Marc Lore, has said certain categories within retail, including home goods and apparel, merit a more personal shopping experience online. That’s why the company is pursuing creating virtual showrooms for its wool rugs, crystal chandeliers, tank tops and knit skirts, among other items.

Earlier this week, Walmart’s fiscal fourth-quarter earnings report revealed e-commerce growth was cooling off and its profit margins were being squeezed, again. Walmart shares tumbled more than 9 percent on the news, as investors feared the company might be losing steam in its ongoing battle with the king of e-commerce: Amazon.

But Walmart has a big year ahead of investments ahead to fuel its e-commerce business, the company said. Walmart is targeting online sales growth of 40 percent in fiscal 2019. An overhauled home shopping experience is just the start of these plans.

“We expect the Walmart.com site redesign to be more attractive, user friendly and include better search ability and functionality,” said Susquehanna analyst Bill Dreher. The new website’s technology, brought over from Jet.com, “is expected to change the economics of e-commerce to focus on a bigger basket (for example, be profitable with seven units per order rather than less or unprofitable at two units per order) and a basket of blended-margin merchandise to drive basket economics.”

Later this year, Walmart will unveil its entirely redesigned website, which will also include merchandise from new brand partners such as Hudson’s Bay-owned Lord & Taylor.

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Boris Johnson says how coronavirus lockdown will be lifted

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a televised press conference at 10 Downing Street on February 22, 2021 in London, England.

Leon Neal | Getty Images News | Getty Images

LONDON — U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson had some good news for the country on Monday after months of lockdown, saying an “unparalleled” vaccination program meant it was “now traveling on a one-way road to freedom.”

The lockdown easing for England will come in a number of steps and will “at every stage be dependent on data not dates,” he said. The first step will see schools in England reopen on March 8. The last, planned for June 21, will see the abolishment of all limits on mixing and the reopening of any sectors that remain closed, such as nightclubs.

It comes as Johnson confirmed that over 17.7 million Britons had received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

“Nearly a year after this pandemic began, this unparalleled national effort has decisively shifted the odds in our favor,” Johnson said in a press conference Monday evening. “We no longer have to rely simply on lockdowns.”

He added: “With every day that goes by, this program of vaccinations is creating a shield around the entire population, which means that we are now traveling on a one-way road to freedom and we can begin safely to restart our lives and do it with confidence.”

More infectious strain

The U.K. has been one of the worst-hit countries by the pandemic, with the fourth-highest number of infections after the U.S., India and Brazil. To date, it has counted over 4.1 million coronavirus cases and has seen 120,987 fatalities as a result of the virus, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

It saw a sharp rise in cases heading into winter as a new, more infectious strain of the virus emerged in the southeast of the country. It has now become the dominant strain of the virus across the country, and has been detected in numerous countries worldwide, alongside other more virulent strains of the virus.

One silver lining in the U.K.’s experience of the pandemic has been its vaccination response. It was the first country in the world to approve a coronavirus vaccine, the candidate from Pfizer and BioNTech.

It then approved and starting administering the AstraZeneca-University of Oxford jab, a cheaper vaccine that’s produced in the U.K. and is easier to transport and store than rival jabs.

Four key tests

Johnson outlined four tests that must be passed before the U.K. can move to the next stage of lifting restrictions. These are:

  • That the vaccine deployment program continues successfully.
  • Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalizations and deaths in those vaccinated.
  • Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalizations which would put unsustainable pressure on the National Health Service.
  • That its assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new coronavirus variants of concern.

Speaking to the nation, Johnson acknowledged that some people would like a more cautious approach to lifting the lockdown, whereas others would prefer the plan was accelerated. He referred to a “careful balance,” but stressed that restrictions could not continue indefinitely.

“It’s thanks for the rollout of these vaccinations … that the balance of that judgment is now changing in our favor. And thanks to the vaccinations that there is light ahead leading us to a spring and a summer which I think will be seasons of hope,” Johnson said. “From which we will not go back.”

New infections falling

Data shows that new infections are falling, with early studies indicating that coronavirus vaccines also help to prevent transmission of the virus, as well as preventing serious disease.

In the last seven days, the U.K. has seen 78,308 new cases of the coronavirus, down 11% from the previous weekly count. The number of deaths in the last seven days, 3,362 fatalities, is also 27% lower than the previous seven-day count. Hospitalizations are also falling.

—CNBC’s Holly Ellyatt contributed to this article.

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Facebook to restore news pages for Australian users in coming days

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Facebook has reached an agreement with the Australian government and will restore news pages in the country days after restricting them.

The decision follows negotiations between the tech giant and the Australian government, which is set to pass a new media law that will require digital platforms to pay for news.

“After further discussions, we are satisfied that the Australian government has agreed to a number of changes and guarantees that address our core concerns about allowing commercial deals that recognize the value our platform provides to publishers relative to the value we receive from them,” Facebook said in an updated statement.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government has introduced last-minute changes to the proposed media bargaining code that is in Parliament and is expected to be voted into law soon.

Those changes include a two-month mediation period to allow digital platforms and publishers to broker deals before they are made to enter arbitration as a last resort.

The arbitration clause in the media bargaining code has been one of Facebook’s main points of objection.

It states that the arbitrator will rule either in favor of either party — the digital platform or the publisher — with no room for a middle-ground agreement, according to experts.

Under the amendments, the Australian government will take into account commercial agreements that digital platforms like Google and Facebook have already made with local news media businesses before deciding if the code applies to the tech giants.

The government will also give the digital platforms one month’s notice before reaching the final decision.

The amendments are expected to provide “further clarity” to digital platforms and news organizations on how the bargaining code will be implemented, the government said.

CNBC’s Will Koulouris contributed to this report.

This is a breaking news. Please check back for updates.

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Electric vehicle firm Lucid Motors to go public in $11.8 billion blank-check merger

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The Lucid Air sedan, which is expected to go into production next year at a plant being constructed in Arizona.

Lucid

Electric vehicle firm Lucid Motors plans to go public at an $11.75 billion combined equity valuation and $24 billion pro-forma equity value through a reverse merger with a blank-check company started by veteran investment banker Michael Klein.

The deal between Newark, California-based Lucid and Churchill Capital Corp IV is the largest in a series of such tie-ups involving EV companies and blank-check firms, also known as a special purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs.

Previous SPAC deals with EV start-ups such as Nikola, Fisker and Lordstown Motors garnered pro-forma valuations of less than $4 billion, but Lucid is farther along than those companies. Lucid is set to deliver its first vehicle – a luxury sedan called the Air – this spring.

The deal will generate about $4.4 billion in cash for expansion plans for Lucid, including its current factory in Arizona.

Shares of CCIV fell by roughly 30% to $40 in extended trading.

Lucid is led by ex-Tesla engineering executive and automotive veteran Peter Rawlinson, who joined the company as chief technology officer in 2013 before adding CEO to his responsibilities in April 2019. He will continue in those roles following the expected closure of the deal in the second quarter, according to the companies.

Lucid was founded in 2007 as Atieva, a name it now uses for its engineering and tech arm that supplies batteries to electric racing circuit Formula E. The company first focused on electric battery technology before changing its name and shifting to an electric vehicle manufacturer in 2016, three years after Rawlinson joined the company to lead its technology development.

Lucid had some difficulty obtaining capital to fund its plans until September 2018 when it received $1 billion from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund.

Rawlinson last year described SPAC deals as quick money, but not enough capital to bring a vehicle to production in-house, which has led firms such as Fisker to seek contract manufacturers.

Prior to the announcement with Klein’s firm, Rawlinson said the company had the funding to start producing the Air at a plant in Casa Grande, Arizona, which is located southeast of Phoenix.

The new funding is expected to assist Lucid in its expansion plans. Rawlinson expects the Air to be the catalyst for a lineup of future all-electric vehicles, including an SUV starting production in early 2023 and more affordable vehicles down the line.

Lucid currently employs nearly 2,000 people, with 3,000 employees expected to be added in the U.S. domestically by the end of 2022, according to the company.

The deal includes a total investment of about $4.6 billion. It is being funded by $2.1 billion in cash from CCIV and a $2.5 billion fully committed PIPE at $15 per share by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund as well as funds and accounts managed by BlackRock, Fidelity and others.

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