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Globescan: Flying High

Ford Motor Co will close its Kansas City, Missouri pickup truck and van plant for a week in early January to match production and demand, the automaker said recently

US home resales unexpectedly rose in November, reaching their highest level in nearly 10 years, likely as buyers rushed into the market to lock in low interest rates in anticipation of further increases in borrowing costs. The third straight monthly increase in existing home sales, reported by the National Association of Realtors recently, suggested housing would contribute to economic growth in the fourth quarter after being a drag in the previous two quarters.Existing home sales increased 0.7 per cent to an annual rate of 5.61 million units in November, the highest sales pace since February 2007.

Profit Game
Ford Motor Co will close its Kansas City, Missouri pickup truck and van plant for a week in early January to match production and demand, the automaker said recently. The plant makes F-150 pickup trucks and Ford Transit vans. Ford also closed the Kansas City plant for a week a couple of months ago. The move comes a day after GM announced it was closing five US plants, mainly ones that make light-selling sedans, in January from one to three weeks. GM also said that in March it will lay off about 1,300 plant workers and cut the second shift at its Detroit-Hamtramck plant. The plant makes the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, and three sedans: the Chevrolet Impala, Cadillac CT6 and Buick LaCrosse.

Bidding Adieu
Longtime Viacom Inc executive Doug Herzog, who oversees the networks Comedy Central and MTV, is leaving the company in January, according to a memo to employees sent recently from chief executive Bob Bakish. Herzog, a 25-year veteran at Viacom known for helping develop such MTV hits as “The Real World” and Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” is leaving as part of a restructuring following the appointment of Bob Bakish as chief executive officer earlier this month.

Big Deal
Coca-Cola Co has reached a deal to buy Anheuser-Busch InBev’s majority stake in their African bottling venture for $3.15 billion and hold onto it until it finds a new owner, the companies said recently. Coke said in October it would exercise a right to buy the stake formerly owned by SABMiller following SAB’s takeover by AB InBev. Coke has not said why it decided to buy back the stake, but it might be in its best interest to avoid partnering with AB InBev, which has no experience in Africa, and keep the beer giant at arm’s length. With little room left for AB InBev to grow meaningfully in beer, bankers doubt the deal-hungry mega brewer will eventually move into soft drinks.

Protecting Privacy
The European Commission has charged Facebook Inc with providing misleading information during its takeover of the online messaging service WhatsApp, opening the company to a possible fine of 1 per cent of its turnover. However, the statement of objections sent to Facebook will not affect the EC’s approval of the $22 billion merger in 2014, the Commission said recently.

Facebook becomes the latest Silicon Valley target of EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who has demanded Apple pay back $14 billion in taxes to Ireland and hit Google with two market abuse investigations. The issue regards a WhatsApp privacy policy change in August when it said it would share some users’ phone numbers with parent company Facebook.

Chip Deal
Japanese electronic parts maker TDK Corp said it had agreed to buy InvenSense Inc, a US chip maker that produces motion sensors for Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co, for $1.33 billion. In a statement, TDK recently said it will pay $13 per share to buy all of InvenSense, representing a 19.9 per cent premium to the US company’s closing price. Earlier this month, TDK was in talks to buy InvenSense.

The deal would allow TDK, already a major smartphone components supplier, to boost its sensor technology offerings. InvenSense designs gyroscopes which help smartphones calculate motion, enabling augmented reality games such as Pokemon Go.

Buying Back
Volkswagen AG has agreed to a $1 billion settlement to fix or buy back another 80,000 polluting diesel vehicles sold in US as the German automaker recently took new steps to put its emissions cheating scandal behind it. The settlement deal covered luxury VW, Audi and Porsche vehicles with 3.0-liter engines, meaning Volkswagen has now agreed to spend as much as $17.5 billion in US to resolve claims from owners as well as federal and state regulators over polluting diesel vehicles. US District Judge Charles Breyer announced the settlement during a hearing in San Francisco.

Striking Hard
Workers at German warehouses of US online retailer Amazon.com Inc were called out on strike by labour union Verdi recently as part of a long-running dispute over pay and conditions. Verdi said in a statement it was calling on workers at three of the nine Amazon warehouses in Germany to join the strike, which will run until December 24. Workers at Amazon’s warehouse in Koblenz already launched a strike recently.

Costly Affair
German industrial gases group Linde and US suitor Praxair have agreed an outline for a $65 billion-plus merger, with the combined company to be run out of the United States by Praxair’s chief executive.

The agreement comes after Praxair provided new assurances to Linde over jobs and corporate governance in Germany, sources have said.

As part of the agreement on key aspects of the planned all-share merger, existing Linde and Praxair shareholders would each own about 50 per cent of the combined company.

The merged group will target $1 billion in cost savings, the two companies said in a joint statement, although some analysts said that figure looked overly optimistic.

Breaking Bad
Nokia Corp recently said it had filed a number of lawsuits against Apple Inc for violating 32 technology patents, striking back at the iPhone maker’s legal action targeting the one-time cellphone industry leader.

Nokia’s lawsuits, filed in courts in Dusseldorf, Mannheim and Munich, Germany, and the US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, cover patents for displays, user interfaces, software, antennas, chipsets and video coding.

“Since agreeing a license covering some patents from the Nokia Technologies portfolio in 2011, Apple has declined subsequent offers made by Nokia to license other of its patented inventions which are used by many of Apple’s products,” Nokia said in a statement.

Apple recently had taken legal action against Acacia Research Corp and Conversant Intellectual Property Management Inc accusing them of colluding with Nokia to extract and extort exorbitant revenues unfairly from Apple.




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