Google offers its software for free to keep up with Zoom


Google offers its software for free to keep up with Zoom

Google wants people using its video chat software so badly, the company is now giving it away. Starting Wednesday, Google Meet, the Alphabet Inc. company’s teleconferencing app, will be available at no cost. Currently Meet is part of Google’s paid workplace software suite. People can use the service for calls with as many as 100 participants. Google said it will cap free calls at 60 minutes, but won’t begin enforcing that time limit until the end of September. The company said Tuesday that more than 100 million people a day use Meet now but it has ceded ground to rivals like Zoom, which reported 300 million daily participants last week. — BLOOMBERG NEWS



Lyft to lay off nearly 1,000 as demand for rides disappears

Lyft said it will eliminate the jobs of almost 1,000 employees across the company, or about 17 percent of its workforce, responding to plummeting demand for rides and cratering revenue in the economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The San Francisco company also will furlough about 5 percent of employees who handle operations who have been suspended during the virus outbreak and cut pay for all employees for the next three months, Lyft said Wednesday in a companywide e-mail. The company also will shut down scooter operations in Austin, Texas, and in Oakland and San Jose, Calif., to cut back on maintenance costs. — BLOOMBERG NEWS


Spotify listeners want soothing music in troubled times

Spotify’s results might be a case study in how humans react to periods of great stress. In Wednesday’s earnings release, the streaming company detailed how people are using its service, saying that “every day now looks like the weekend” as usage in car, wearable, and Web platforms drops while TV and game-console use increases more than 50 percent. “Two in five consumers we surveyed in the United States said they were listening to music to manage stress more than they typically do, which explains the recent rise we’ve seen in searches for ‘chill’ and ‘instrumental,’ ” Spotify said in its release. “We’ve also seen an uptick in consumption of podcasts related to wellness and meditation over the last few weeks.” The world’s largest streaming audio service added 15 million monthly active users in the first three months of the year, bringing the total to 286 million, compared with previous guidance of 279 million to 289 million. — BLOOMBERG NEWS



Lime to cut jobs in US and Europe

Scooter-rental startup Lime plans to terminate jobs across the United States and Europe this week, said people familiar with the matter, the latest sign of trouble for sharing-economy businesses reeling from the coronavirus pandemic. The cuts will affect as many as 190 workers, some of whom have already been informed of their dismissal, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified discussing personnel matters. Management elected to expand an earlier plan to eliminate 50 to 70 jobs as it became clear the virus poses a prolonged threat to the business. Over the past three weeks, about 10 jobs were terminated in Europe each week, the person said. Some 60 people in Europe will have lost their jobs by Friday, the person said, along with 130 in the United States. — BLOOMBERG NEWS


With Business flat, Blue Apron stock plummets

Investors don’t seem too pleased with results from Blue Apron after the spreading pandemic built up anticipation for Blue Apron’s meal-kit business. The stock had more than quadrupled from its March lows before dropping more than 25 percent Wednesday. The quarterly loss widened to $20.1 million compared to $5.3 million a year earlier. And while orders are up from Dec. 31, they’re still solidly below the levels seen in the period that ended March 31, 2019. — BLOOMBERG NEWS



British Airways to cut as many as 12,000 jobs as travel tanks

Plans to slash as many as 12,000 jobs at British Airways, a scale of cuts unseen since the coronavirus struck, threaten fresh damage to the economy and put Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a tight spot. The staff reductions, amounting to almost 30 percent of the workforce at Britain’s former state-owned airline, are part of a restructuring aimed at shrinking the group for a downturn that it reckons could last for years. The UK has ruled out a broad bailout of the aviation industry, asking firms to first tap all commercial avenues to raise funds to protect taxpayer interests, with the government assisting only as a last resort. — BLOOMBERG NEWS


Starbucks looking to pay less for rent

Starbucks is seeking rent relief. The Seattle-based coffee chain said Tuesday that it’s in talks with landlords for potential lease concessions and expects to pay reduced rents after the coronavirus pandemic passes. Still, the company is current on its rent bills, according to chief financial officer Patrick Grismer, even as many of its stores remain closed. Starbucks closed roughly half of its 8,900 US company-operated locations in March and has plans to open as many as possible with modified operations beginning May 4. — BLOOMBERG NEWS


Hertz skips payments as travel shuts down worldwide

Hertz, the rental-car firm, is running low on cash and hasn’t made certain payments related to leasing vehicles for its fleet as it engages in talks with lenders to reduce the obligations. With travel virtually ground to a halt across much of the globe, Hertz has furloughed employees and is trying to further reduce monthly expenses to lease vehicles from its special-purpose vehicle-finance subsidiary. While the company said in a regulatory filing that it’s reached an agreement with holders of the subsidiary’s notes, talks with lenders are ongoing. — BLOOMBERG NEWS



Don’t expect skyscrapers to fill up soon, Barclays CEO says

Bankers yearning to return to their high-rise offices should brace for disappointment. Headquarters built to house thousands of staff might be a “thing of the past” if social distancing means only two people can ride an elevator at a time, says Barclays CEO Jes Staley, echoing rivals’ concerns. Branches might work as alternative sites for investment bankers once staff are cleared to stop working from home, he said. As the outbreak starts to ebb in New York and pressure rises on the UK government to end London’s lockdown, the largest banks are grappling with how to adhere to social distancing rules. Wall Street lenders are among the largest tenants in the global commercial property industry, with many housed in large open-plan skyscrapers that rely heavily on elevators. — BLOOMBERG NEWS


equivalent of 305 million jobs lost

The damage to labor markets around the world is proving far more severe than initially estimated after governments extended shutdowns to damp the spread of the coronavirus. The International Labour Organization said Wednesday that working hours will be 10.5 percent lower this quarter than before the crisis started, equivalent to 305 million full-time jobs. The figure marks what it described as a “significant deterioration” on its previous estimate of 195 million jobs. — BLOOMBERG NEWS