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Massachusetts employers are feeling better about the future

A "Now Hiring" sign outside a restaurant. Massachusetts employers continued to gain confidence in the economy in May as COVID-19 business restrictions were lifted, according to the latest Associated Industries of Massachusetts business confidence index.
A "Now Hiring" sign outside a restaurant. Massachusetts employers continued to gain confidence in the economy in May as COVID-19 business restrictions were lifted, according to the latest Associated Industries of Massachusetts business confidence index.Jessica Pons/Photographer: Jessica Pons/Bloom


Massachusetts employers are feeling better about the future

Massachusetts employers continued to gain confidence in the economy in May as COVID-19 business restrictions were lifted amid the vaccine rollout, according to the latest Associated Industries of Massachusetts business confidence index. The index, which is based on a monthly survey of AIM members, rose 1.2 points to 61.9 last month, its highest point since February 2020, from 60.7 in April. Readings above 50 indicate the mood is generally more positive than negative. Small companies were more bullish about the future than big or mid-sized respondents. The index was in negative territory for much of 2020, largely because of uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, before clearing the 50-point threshold in January and staying above it all year so far. ― JON CHESTO



Bain Capital buys big stake in security-tech firm ExtraHop

Boston private equity giant Bain Capital will acquire a significant controlling stake in Seattle-based cybersecurity and networking firm ExtraHop, as part of a deal valued at $900 million. Bain will be joined by minority investor Crosspoint Capital Partners, which specializes in cybersecurity and cloud computing investments. Bain and Crosspoint are essentially buying out ExtraHop’s venture investors, Madrona Venture Group and Meritech Capital Partners. ExtraHop co-founders Jesse Rothstein and Raja Mukerji will continue to hold minority stakes in the 500-person company. ExtraHop has about 1,000 corporate customers, such as The Home Depot and Ulta Beauty, and is on track to generate more than $100 million in revenue this year. The deal is slated to be completed this summer. ― JON CHESTO


Boston AI company Neurala starts European subsidiary

Boston artificial-intelligence software firm Neurala has launched a European subsidiary, dubbed Neurala Europe, and based in Trieste, Italy. The subsidiary is being backed by Italian investment firms Friulia SpA and AddValue; it will be overseen directly by Neurala chief executive Max Versace, a native of Italy. Versace said he plans to incorporate Neurala’s “vision AI” software in more industrial machines, cameras, and production lines in Europe. Neurala currently employs about 30 people in Boston, and plans to hire about a dozen additional employees for its new European subsidiary. ― JON CHESTO



Johnson adviser to attend G-7 summit as UK braces for pressure

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s top Brexit adviser, David Frost, will attend this week’s Group of Seven summit, according to multiple officials familiar with the plan, in a sign the British delegation is preparing for tough talks over the situation in Northern Ireland.The British team is due to hold discussions with President Biden and European Union leaders on the sidelines of the summit in Cornwall, England. One of the people said that Frost’s presence suggests that the meetings could feature detailed conversations about how to handle the Northern Ireland protocol of the Brexit accords. Frost was the UK’s chief Brexit negotiator and is now a cabinet minister, advising Johnson on Europe and trade. Johnson’s office declined to comment. The EU and the UK have long been at odds over the special arrangements for Northern Ireland that are part of the separation agreement that Frost and Johnson negotiated. The EU argues that UK decisions to unilaterally waive provisions in the deal, such as checks on food products entering Northern Ireland from Britain, are in breach of the agreement, threatening to take action if the UK doesn’t change course soon. The British government says it has offered practical proposals and the EU is being inflexible. In the latest attempt to break the impasse, the EU and the UK will be holding talks about the matter on Wednesday. The Times newspaper reported this week that Biden will warn Johnson not to renege on the deal, while several senior US politicians have previously said that Britain can forget a trade if the Brexit pact is broken. ― BLOOMBERG NEWS



New York Times Co. accused of restricting employees from supporting union

A New York Times Co. employee union is accusing the newspaper publisher of violating federal labor law by restricting its tech workers from showing support for the NewsGuild. A NewsGuild complaint filed Tuesday with the National Labor Relations Board says the Times’s management illegally “interfered with, restrained, and coerced its employees,” including by interrogating workers about their union activism and by maintaining rules that “prevent or discourage” them from supporting the labor group. The NewsGuild of New York, part of the Communications Workers of America, represents 1,300 editorial and business employees at the Times. It announced a campaign in April to unionize around 700 Times tech workers, such as software engineers and product managers. A majority have signed union cards, the guild said. Officials with the Times didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Part of the complaint involves a late May meeting in which Times management ordered a group of product designers to stop using pro-union avatars and backgrounds in online services like Slack and Google Meet, according to Bon Champion, one of the employees. ― BLOOMBERG NEWS


IAC’s incubator may shift to focus heavily on crypto

Barry Diller’s IAC/InterActive Corp. is considering shifting its incubator platform Newco to focus “heavily” on cryptocurrency, said chief executive Joey Levin. “Practices that have existed for decades or centuries are just going to be more efficient when done on a blockchain,” Levin said, speaking Tuesday at the online Bloomberg Deals Summit. Levin said that IAC is aiming to start three to five businesses a year through Newco, whose current projects involve sports and gaming, health care, and home renovation. While IAC prefers to build companies, Levin said “buying is going to be a more frequent and easier option.” IAC is “definitely looking” at potential acquisitions in cryptocurrency, but high valuations in the overall market will probably make such deals unlikely, he said. “People are presuming that everything goes to the moon, and not everything does go to the moon,” he said. Investors shouldn’t expect to see IAC spin off any companies anytime soon through special purpose acquisition vehicles, or SPACs, said Levin, adding that he isn’t “a SPAC fan.” SPAC deals, in which businesses go public through mergers with blank check companies, don’t make sense for IAC’s portfolio companies, he said. “I don’t really see why you’d go through all that work to build a company and then hand over the keys at a critical point to somebody else,” he said. ― BLOOMBERG NEWS



Ford-backed Solid Power said to be in talks with SPAC

Solid Power, a maker of solid-state batteries that counts Ford Motor Co. and BMW AG among its investors, is in talks to go public through a merger with Decarbonization Plus Acquisition Corp. III, according to people with knowledge of the matter. The blank-check firm is seeking to raise more than $100 million in new equity to support a transaction that’s set to value the combined entity at about $1.2 billion, including debt, one of the people said. Terms could change, and as with all deals that aren’t finalized, it’s possible talks could collapse. A Solid Power representative didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. A Decarbonization Plus spokesman declined to comment. Colorado-based Solid Power raised $130 million last month in a round led by Ford, BMW, and Volta Energy Technologies LLC, funding that the company said would help it start producing automotive-scale batteries on its production line early next year. Solid Power is among companies trying to develop solid-state batteries, an innovation that holds the promise of dramatically speeding up electric-vehicle adoption by providing automakers with a safer, cheaper alternative to lithium-ion batteries. The Decarbonization Plus SPAC is an affiliate of Riverstone Investment Group. Led by CEO Erik Anderson, it raised $350 million in a March initial public offering. QuantumScape Corp., the solid-state battery developer that counts Volkswagen AG as its biggest shareholder, became a public company through a SPAC merger. Its market value as of Tuesday afternoon was around $12.3 billion. ― BLOOMBERG NEWS