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FB Roundup: Cargill, Merck, and Volkswagen

By Michael Finnigan

Cargill gets $10 million in tax breaks to stay in Wichita

A deal to keep family-controlled Cargill operating in Wichita includes nearly $10 million in tax breaks from government entities over a 10-year period, according to documents obtained by the Associated Press.

The deal includes tax abatements and sales tax exemptions from the state, industrial revenue bonds to be used to build a new facility, and the possibility of picking up half the cost of the company's $15 million parking garage.

In return, the world's largest agricultural commodities trader will remain in Wichita for at least 15 years. The Kansas Department of Commerce said details of the deal would remain private until a deal is signed.

Cargill was founded in 1865 by Will Cargill, who was later joined by his two brothers, Sam and James. Today the business is still controlled by about 80 members of the Cargill and MacMillan families.

In 2015, Cargill posted revenues of $1.58 billion, a 13% decrease from $1.8 billion the previous year. The secretive family still own 88% of the company and is currently in its fourth generation.

Merck shares soar following lung cancer study

Shares in German pharmaceutical company Merck soared this week after an independent study found that patients who took their Keytruda immuno-oncology medicine survived longer than those on traditional chemotherapy.

An independent data monitoring board recommended that the late-stage trial be stopped due to the favourable results, so that patients in the study who were taking chemotherapy could switch over to the company's treatment, Merck said.

Merck hopes the recommendation will allow its new drug – which is thought to cost $150,000 per year – to be used for lung cancer patients at an earlier stage.

The founding Merck family owns about 70% of the pharmaceuticals business through its holding company E Merck KG. The firm has roots dating back to 1668 and is the oldest chemical and pharmaceutical company in the world.

Merck expects 2016 revenues to increase to $40.2 billion from $38.7 billion.

Volkswagen families display unity ahead of annual general meeting

The two families behind German car manufacturer Volkswagen have made a show of unity ahead of next week's annual meeting, according to Bild Daily, as the firm begins reshaping its business following the diesel emissions scandal.

In an interview published in the German tabloid, supervisory board members Wolfgang Porsche and Hans Michel Piech brushed aside reports that alleged the two powerful family clans were not acting in concert.

Sources told Reuters that the two families, which together own 52% of the company through holding company Porsche SE, had considered scrapping the dividend, despite the wishes of VW's supervisory board.

The two families voted in favour of paying a small dividend to shareholders, and cancelled a meeting next week where the payout was due to be discussed.

The third-generation family business reported 2015 first half revenues of €109 billion ($120 billion).