By Paul Page
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Shipping companies and their U.S. customers may be hoping that the rest of 2017 is as busy as January was. Imports at the country's ports surged last month, WSJ Logistics Report's Erica E. Phillips writes, as a stronger dollar, retailer restocking and a postelection bump in consumer confidence pushed more goods through distribution channels. The neighboring California ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach saw imports jump 10.6% while exports soared 20%. Trade data and figures at other ports show a similar swell in volumes, and the Global Port Tracker report by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates LLC projects continuing strong demand later this spring. The early upturn suggests a boost in confidence among retail importers -- and perhaps a push to get goods moving ahead of the Lunar New Year slowdown. It will take more buying from consumers in the U.S. and industrial customers abroad to maintain the momentum.
The quiet talks over control of CSX Corp. are getting much more contentious. The freight railroad is turning the tables on activist investor Paul Hilal, the WSJ's David Benoit, Jacquie McNish and Paul Ziobro report, threatening to turn what seemed an amicable negotiation into something closer to bare-knuckle boardroom battle. The company publicly disclosed demands Mr. Hilal, railroad veteran Hunter Harrison's partner in the takeover bid, is making. That includes what CSX says is Mr. Hilal's call for CSX to reimburse his investment fund for costs for Mr. Harrison, who gave up some $89 million in compensation and benefits to leave Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. early to seek the CSX leadership. The U.S. railroad is seeking shareholder votes on the takeover bid as well as the specific demand. CSX isn't taking sides, but the call for a vote marks an unusual display of resistance and casts new doubt over a takeover bid that seemed to be on a clear track to completion.
A new investment will give uShip Inc. important backing to expand its online freight booking platform, but it may be more significant to the investor. DB Schenker, one of the world's oldest logistics companies, will take a stake in a technology upstart, WSJ Logistics Report's Brian Baskin writes, giving the Germany-based freight forwarder tighter ties to the sort of digital operations that are upending the tradition-bound shipping business. DB Schenker recently started working with uShip under an exclusivearrangement to pair shippers with truckers across Europe. The German company has its eyes on more than added shipments, however, saying it is pressing a "digital transformation of its business model." Many industry experts say tradition-bound freight brokers and forwarders need to ramp up their technology capabilities to survive in a more digital world. Investing in uShip will give DB Schenker a front-row seat, and perhaps a role, in the changes hitting the shipping business.
President Donald Trump's promise to rebuild U.S. infrastructure with American materials will run hard up against the reality of international business. In a global economy where supply chains are international, establishing a "Buy America" edict can be more difficult than it sounds, the WSJ's Ted Mann and Brody Mullins report, and even different parts of the U.S. government don't always agree on what "made in America" means. The definitions are especially hazy in the steel industry, where the potential U.S. infrastructure investment carries high stakes. Products at California Steel Industries Inc., which processes steel some 50 miles from Los Angeles, sources partly-converted slabs from abroad that leave the final products short of qualifying as U.S.-made, for instance. That business and others already are constructing lobbying efforts aimed at a spending plan that may also define just what will make new roads and bridges truly American.
IN OTHER NEWS
Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen painted a largely upbeat picture of the U.S. economy in signaling the central bank may consider raising short-term interest rates as early as March. (WSJ)
Economic growth in the eurozone was weaker than previously reported in the fourth quarter, expanding 0.4%. (WSJ)
General Motors Co. is in talks to sell its EuropeanOpel business to Peugeot as the U.S. auto giant seeks to focus on its home market. (WSJ)
Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC lost $5.05 billion last year, as the fall in the British pound and setbacks on aircraft engine programs weighed on earnings. (WSJ)
The private-equity owners of BJ's Wholesale Club are preparing for a possible sale or initial public offering for the warehouse-club operator. (WSJ)
Toshiba Corp. delayed its earnings report and said its chairman was resigning as internal problems at the electronics giant threaten to spiral out of control. (WSJ)
Activist hedge fund TCI Fund Management is opposing aerospace supplier Safran SA's proposed $9 billion takeover of Zodiac Aerospace. (WSJ)
Swiss mining giant Glencore PLC will pay $534 million to acquire stakes in two African copper projects. (WSJ)
Owners of Arizona's Navajo Generating Station, one of the largest coal-burning power plants in the U.S., will allow the site to close after 2019. (WSJ)
Online fashion retailer Nasty Gal Inc. is shutting its Kentucky distribution center and its only two brick-and-mortar stores as it sells its brand name. (WSJ)
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will consolidate its buying of products to be sold at stores with purchases it makes to post for online sales. (Reuters)
South Korea's Hyundai Merchant Marine Co. expects to receive $632 million from a state-backed ship finance vehicle. (Splash 24/7)
U.S. cotton farmers expect to expand production this year, with planted acreage growing by 9.4%. (Sourcing Journal)
Singapore Post warned the TransGlobal U.S. e-commerce firm it acquired in 2015 has performed poorly and its value on company books could be significantly impaired. (Straits Times)
Mattel Inc. struck a deal to sell its toys in China on the Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. marketplaces. (Fortune)
Qatar Airways started 777 freighter service between the Middle East and South America with a stop in Miami. (Air Cargo News)
Paul Page is deputy editor of WSJ Logistics Report. Follow him at @PaulPage, and follow the entire WSJ Logistics Report team: @brianjbaskin, @jensmithWSJ and @EEPhillips_WSJ and follow the WSJ Logistics Report on Twitter at @WSJLogistics.
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires
February 15, 2017 06:55 ET (11:55 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2017 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.