Around the business world
Apple recalled 1.8 million Sony laptop batteries for fire threat: SAN FRANCISCO – Apple Computer Inc. recalled 1.8 million Sony-built laptop batteries that could overheat and catch fire. The recall comes on the heels of a recall of 4.1 million laptop batteries by Dell Inc. last week. In a realted story, Japan’s trade ministry ordered Sony Corp. and Dell Inc. to investigate trouble involving laptop batteries made by the Japanese manufacturer, saying they overheated and caught fire in at least two instances in the country.New home sales drop 4.3 percent and number of unsold homes hits record: WASHINGTON – Sales of new homes dropped in July by the largest amount since February while the inventory of unsold homes climbed to a record high. Meanwhile, orders to U.S. factories for big-ticket manufactured goods fell 2.4 percent in July as demand for aircraft and automobiles weakened.Rite Aid to become largest East Coast drug chain with $2.5 billion acquisition: HARRISBURG, Pa. – Rite Aid Corp., the nation’s third largest drugstore chain, said Thursday it will purchase the U.S. Eckerd and Brooks operations of Canada’s Jean Coutu Group Inc. for about $2.55 billion in cash and stock. The deal, Rite Aid’s first major acquisition since a turnaround team arrived six years ago, will make it the largest drugstore chain operator on the East Coast.Stocks fall for fourth straight day: NEW YORK – Wall Street declined for a fourth straight session after new data fed investors’ belief that the economy is moderating faster than the Federal Reserve anticipated. Oil prices slipped further, following a decline the day before that was brought on by an unexpected increase in U.S. gasoline and crude oil stockpiles.Fannie Mae won’t face criminal prosecution over alleged accounting fraud: WASHINGTON – Mortgage finance giant Fannie Mae will not face criminal prosecution over its alleged multibillion-dollar accounting fraud, the latest twist in a saga of intrigue involving a politically potent company.Companies buying back stock in record amounts: NEW YORK – STOCK BUYBACKS – Flush with cash after 17 quarters of double-digit earnings growth, S&P 500 companies are buying back an unprecedented number of shares – pushing repurchase activity to a record and boosting earnings per share. On Thursday, Standard & Poor’s said second-quarter buybacks reached a new record of $116 billion.Northwest flight attendants threatening walkout: MINNEAPOLIS – Northwest Airlines geared up for a possible showdown night with flight attendants who have threatened scattered walkouts if they don’t get a better contract offer. The airline had a hearing Friday before a federal judge in New York to argue the job actions would be illegal.McDonald’s shakeup doesn’t touch stock prices: NEW YORK – McDonald’s Corp. shares held largely steady as Wall Street shrugged off the management shake up resulting from the abrupt resignation of No. 2 executive Mike Roberts.Williams-Sonoma earnings up 15 percent: NEW YORK – Home furnishings retailer Williams-Sonoma Inc. said its second-quarter profit rose 15 percent, but the company lowered its full-year guidance due in part to weakness at its largest brand, Pottery Barn.Kohl’s, Vera Wang joining forces: NEW YORK – In the latest step by department stores to team up with high-end fashion designers, mid-brow retailer Kohl’s Corp. announced Thursday a union with Vera Wang, known for her $10,000 wedding gowns, to create a new fashion and lifestyle brand.Katrina contracts awarded without bids: WASHINGTON – The government awarded 70 percent of its contracts for Hurricane Katrina work without full competition, wasting hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars in the process, says a House study released Thursday by Democrats.Morning-after pill finally approved: WASHINGTON – Women may buy the morning-after pill without a prescription – but only with proof they’re 18 or older, federal health officials ruled Thursday, capping a contentious 3-year effort to ease access to the emergency contraceptive. Girls 17 and younger still will need a doctor’s note to buy the pills, called Plan B, the Food and Drug Administration told manufacturer Barr Pharmaceuticals Inc.Swiss scientists hope to ‘muscle’ in on video display market: GENEVA – Researchers have developed a new way for displaying an unlimited range of colors on video displays by using tiny artificial “muscles” that contract and expand depending on how much electricity is applied to them.Hitchhiking tech titans worth $6,000: MENLO PARK, Calif. – Wall Street values Hewlett-Packard Co. at $98 billion. Its rival, Sun Microsystems Inc., values Hewlett and Packard at a mere $6,000. That’s how much Sun paid for a life-size painted cutout of HP co-founders Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard. The soft-hued portraits belong to “Pioneers Hitchhiking in the Valley of Heart’s Delight,” a multimedia project depicting deceased technology industry icons.Microsoft’s new Web browser almost ready: NEW YORK – MICROSOFT-INTERNET BROWSER – Microsoft Corp. released a near-final version of its new Internet Explorer browser Thursday, and the company said the free Web-surfing software is on track for completion by the end of the year.AOL offering vide downloads: NEW YORK – “Hitch,” “24” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” are among the movies and television shows that AOL will sell through its new video portal under deals the Internet company has forged with major Hollywood studios.Ericsson expanding wireless networks: STOCKHOLM, Sweden – Wireless equipment maker LM Ericsson said it has signed a $1 billion deal with Indian mobile operator Bharti Airtel to expand its wireless networks.China bank buying Hong Kong real banking business: BEIJING – CHINA-BANK OF AMERICA – China Construction Bank Corp., the nation’s third-largest bank, has agreed to buy Bank of America Corp.’s Hong Kong retail banking business for $1.24 billion.Asian trade ministers to fire up negotiations with India: SEOUL, South Korea – ASEAN trade ministers agreed Thursday to revive free trade negotiations with India after months of deadlock, and edged closer to wrapping up talks on liberalizing the services sector with China and South Korea.German economic confidence still high: BERLIN – German business confidence dipped slightly in August but remains close to a 15-year high it reached in the early summer, a closely watched survey shows. The Ifo institute says Germany’s economic recovery “remains robust” – in contrast to a survey earlier this week that pointed to the risk of a “considerable economic downturn” in the near future.Print company will cut 2,000 jobs: BRUSSELS, Belgium – Struggling printing and image company Agfa-Gevaert NV will cut up to 2,000 jobs worldwide to save costs as it posted a 27 percent increase in net profit for the second quarter.Cement maker’s profits soar 27 percent: BERNE, Switzerland – Holcim Ltd., one of the world’s largest cement makers, says second-quarter earnings rose 27 percent, boosted by strong demand and the impact of recent acquisitions.Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado
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