Business Highlights

AP News
Posted: May 10, 2011 6:00 PM
Business Highlights


Microsoft agrees to buy Skype for $8.5B

NEW YORK (AP) _ Microsoft Corp. said Tuesday that it has agreed to buy the popular Internet telephone service Skype SA for $8.5 billion in the biggest deal in the software maker's 36-year history.

Buying Skype gives Microsoft access to a user base of about 170 million people who log in to Skype every month, using the Internet and Skype usernames as a complement to the traditional phone network and its phone numbers.

Microsoft said it will marry Skype's functions to its Xbox game console, Outlook email program and Windows smartphones. All of these platforms already have other options for Internet calling, but the addition of Skype users would expand their reach, making them more useful.


GM to add or keep 4,000 jobs in US

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) _ General Motors is putting out help wanted signs.

GM said Tuesday that it will add or keep 4,000 jobs in the U.S. by hiring new employees or calling back furloughed workers over the next year and a half. It's the latest sign that that the company and U.S. car industry are recovering from a sales slump and bankruptcies.

GM will spend $2 billion at 17 plants in eight states to create the new work. Most of the investment will be in the Midwest. Beyond that, few details were released about where the jobs will land.

It's also not clear how many of the positions will be new hires. Many will be existing jobs retained with the introduction of new cars and trucks. The automaker will announce over the next few months which plants are getting new investments.


US-China talks end with wide differences remaining

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The United States and China have concluded two days of high-level talks with wide differences remaining in such areas as human rights and how to resolve America's huge trade deficit with China.

The two sides announced a range of modest proposals in the economic area aimed at increasing sales opportunities for U.S. companies in China. But there was no breakthrough on a key U.S. demand _ letting China's currency rise at a faster rate against the dollar.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the U.S. had made its concerns on sensitive issues very clear during the talks, including in the area of human rights. In a magazine interview released Tuesday, Clinton had called Beijing's human rights record "deplorable."


Disney 2Q profit misses estimates on `Mars,' quake

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The Walt Disney Co. says its second-quarter net income slipped 1 percent to miss analyst expectations as its amusement parks were hurt by the Japan earthquake and tsunami and the shift in the Easter holiday. Studio profit also was hit by the poor box office performance of "Mars Needs Moms."

Net income for the three months ended April 2 fell to $942 milllion, or 49 cents per share, from $953 million, or 48 cents per share, a year earlier. Revenue grew 6 percent to $9.08 billion from $8.58 billion a year earlier.


Caesars Entertainment 1st-quarter loss narrows

LAS VEGAS (AP) _ Caesars Entertainment Corp.'s first-quarter loss shrank compared with a year earlier as it cuts its marketing costs and enjoyed a hefty one-time gain for paying off debt early and its revenue rose slightly in Las Vegas, the company said Tuesday.

The world's biggest casino operator, which is privately held, said it lost $147.5 million for the period that ended March 31, including a gain of $21 million related to paying off debt early. That's compared with a loss of $195.6 million a year earlier, including a loss of $30.2 million that also was tied to paying off debt early.


Wendy's/Arby's loss narrows; plans price increases

NEW YORK (AP) _ Wendy's/Arby's Group Inc. plans to raise prices, following in the footsteps of competitors like McDonald's Corp. The company also cut its earnings outlook because of rising costs for beef and other ingredients.

The announcement also came as the company reported a first-quarter loss and said revenue at Wendy's locations had stagnated.

In a statement, CEO Roland Smith called the run-up in beef prices "unprecedented." He said the restaurant plans "prudent" price increases, meaning it doesn't want to raise prices so much that customers opt to eat at home instead.


Boston Scientific CEO will retire at year-end

Medical device maker Boston Scientific Corp. announced Tuesday that its CEO will step down at the end of the year, just two years after he was brought in to fix a company struggling to integrate a huge acquisition and revive anemic sales of its key implants.

Ray Elliott's departure was unexpected and sent company shares tumbling. The stock lost 69 cents, or 9 percent, to close at $7.02.

Elliott, 61, was hired away from orthopedics maker Zimmer Holdings where he gained a reputation as a CEO who could control costs and boost profitability. At Boston Scientific he focused on paying down debt, restructuring business units and acquiring new technology like asthma treatments, heart valves and women's health products.


Community Health ends effort to buy rival Tenet

NEW YORK (AP) _ Community Health Systems Inc. has ended its effort to buy competitor Tenet Healthcare Corp. after Tenet rejected its latest $4 billion-plus offer.

Franklin, Tenn.-based Community Health said Monday it withdrew its offer to buy Tenet for $7.25 per share. It has also rescinded its effort to put nominees on Tenet's board of directors.


Private equity firm to buy `American Idol' parent

Media company CKx Inc., which owns proprietary rights to "Idol" and "So You Think You Can Dance," said Tuesday that it is being sold to a private equity group for about $511 million in cash.

CKx also owns the rights to the name, image and likeness of Elvis Presley and Muhammad Ali.

The buyout group, led by Apollo Global Management, agreed to pay $5.50 per share for CKx, a 24 percent premium to the stock's closing price Monday of $4.45.


Google unveils cloud-based music service

NEW YORK (AP) _ Google Inc. unveiled its long-planned music service Tuesday, but it will likely need deals with the recording industry to reach its full potential.

Called "Music Beta by Google," the service lets users store their tunes remotely and access them from any compatible device, including mobile phones, tablets and computers. So far, it does not offer music downloads or song sales and it doesn't let people listen to music they haven't physically uploaded.

The service will be available by invitation only starting on Tuesday, free of charge while it is being tested. Google announced the new service at its yearly conference for software developers in San Francisco. It did not say whether, or how much, it plans to charge eventually.


Sanofi gets approval of flu shot with tiny needle

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) _ The FDA has approved the first flu shot injected with a tiny needle into skin cells rather than muscle.

Sanofi Pasteur said Tuesday that the Food and Drug Administration approved the company's Fluzone Intradermal vaccine for adults 18 through 64 years old. It will be available for the 2011-12 influenza season.

Flu shots generally are injected deep into muscle with a needle 1 inch to 1.5 inches long, a sight that distresses many patients.

Sanofi Pasteur's new product has a needle less than a tenth of an inch long, attached to a pre-filled syringe that holds a smaller amount of influenza vaccine than the company' standard flu shots.


By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 75.68 points, or 0.6 percent, to close at 12,760.36. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 10.87 points, or 0.8 percent, to 1,357.16. The Nasdaq composite index gained 28.64 points, or 1 percent, to 2,871.89.

Benchmark crude rose $1.33 to settle, or 1.3 percent, at $103.88 per barrel on the Nymex.

In other Nymex trading for June contracts, heating oil added 3.94 cents to settle at $3.0012 per gallon and natural gas futures gained 8.7 cents to settle at $4.303 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, Brent crude rose $1.73 to settle at $117.63 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.