Afternoon Coffee update: Brexit Deal Goes Bust; With Microsoft-Walgreens Deal, Healthcare Rivalry with Amazon Heats Up

The UK’s two-year effort to divorce the European Union suffered a setback Tuesday when Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal lost a 432-202 vote by Parliament —  beginning a new round of uncertainty for Britain, the New York Times reports. The opposition leader proposed a no-confidence vote in the prime minister that could undo her administration and lead to a new election. She said the no-confidence measure would be debated Wednesday, the Times reports.

The defeat means May has until Monday to come up with a Plan B for a Brexit deal or face the possibility of crashing out of the alliance with no terms set for the March 29 exit date.

Microsoft, Amazon in Healthcare

Microsoft announced Tuesday it has signed a multiyear deal with Walgreens Boots Alliance to serve its employees and businesses, reports CNBC, which also looks at Amazon’s recent moves into the healthcare sector.

Walgreens will move most of its information technology workloads to Microsoft's Azure public cloud, CNBC reports.

WBA CEO and Executive Vice Chairman Stefano Pessina said he's not afraid of Amazon moving into healthcare.

"If they will come, they will create another ecosystem and people will live together," Pessina told CNBC. "We have never believed that someone could monopolize the market. We believe that if you do the right things you can drive even if you have hard competitors.

Joust Launches Banking App for Freelancers

Denver-based banking platform Joust on Tuesday announced the launch of its “multi-feature financial app tailored to the unique needs of freelancers, entrepreneurs and independent contractors.” Founded in 2015, Joust describes itself as a provider of “a banking toolkit equipped with solutions for the complex and dynamic needs of the independent workforce.”

The new app allows freelancers set up a “free, FDIC-insured deposit account backed by a community bank” and access an optional client late payment and non-payment service provider by a partner, Pay Amour. Joust is based on Stone Castle’s Cambr, a full-stack financial toolkit platform.

Europe has been the hotbed for non-bank start-ups (also called online-only banks, neo-banks, challenger banks, etc.) focusing on freelancer and micro-businesses.  But in the U.S. (where there is a completely different regulatory regime), non-banks like Ally Bank (once GMAC) have been getting into the game, along with start-ups like Seed, Chime and Joust.

Lamine Zarrad, Joust co-founder and CEO, said: “With Joust, we’re aiming to eliminate the pain points independent workers feel by creating an ethical banking system for freelancers and entrepreneurs. We’ve brought together our freelancing, product design and regulatory experience to tailor Joust to the needs and values of those workers historically shut out of the banking system.”

Joshua Siegel, CEO of StoneCastle, also said in the announcement that based on Cambr, “with digital bill pay, account analytics, cash flow management tools, and more, Joust can help freelancers save time, reduce expenses and eliminate hassles.”

Bid for Sears Revised

Talks to buy Sears out of bankruptcy continue Tuesday with news that a revised offer was made after the troubled retailer began negotiations Monday with its former CEO, Eddie Lampert, at auction, Bloomberg News reports. The new deal is still worth a little more than $5 billion, but it has more favorable terms for the retailer and creditors, Bloomberg reports, citing sources.

Sears is set to file results of the auction with the bankruptcy court Wednesday.

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