Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Jul 30, 2012 6:04 PM
Business Highlights

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IPhone appeal dims as Samsung shines

NEW YORK (AP) — The latest iPhone looks much the same as the first iPhone, which came out more than five years ago. That hasn't been a problem for Apple — until, now.

The pace of iPhone sales has slowed, Apple revealed last week. Part of the problem is that the competition has found a formula that works: thinner phones with big screens that make the iPhone look small and chubby.

For a dose of smartphone envy, iPhone owners need to look no further than Samsung Electronics Co., the number-one maker of smartphones in the world. Its newest flagship phone, the Galaxy S III, is sleek and wafer-thin.

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Chrysler posts $436 million second-quarter profit

DETROIT (AP) — Chrysler's almost total reliance on North America used to be a huge weakness, one that sent the company into bankruptcy protection.

Now it's a major strength. The region is generating profits for the company while losses in Europe and slowing sales in South America and China are drains on other carmakers.

Chrysler, which sells almost 90 percent of its cars and trucks in the U.S. and Canada, made a $436 million profit in the second quarter. It was a huge turnaround from a year earlier, when the company lost $370 million, mainly because it refinanced government bailout loans.

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23andMe seeks FDA approval for personal DNA test

WASHINGTON (AP) — Genetic test maker 23andMe is asking the Food and Drug Administration to approve its personalized DNA test in a move that, if successful, could boost acceptance of technology that is viewed skeptically by leading scientists.

23andMe is part of a fledgling industry that allows consumers to peek into their genetic code for details about their ancestry and future health. The company's saliva-based kits have attracted scrutiny for claiming to help users detect whether they are likely to develop illnesses like breast cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer's.

The biology of how DNA variations actually lead to certain diseases is still poorly understood, and many geneticists say such tests are built on flimsy evidence.

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Post office nears historic default on $5 billion payment

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Postal Service is bracing for a first-ever default on billions in payments due to the Treasury, adding to widening uncertainty about the mail agency's solvency as the number of first-class letters plummets and Congress deadlocks on ways to stem the red ink.

With cash running perilously low, two legally required payments for future postal retirees' health benefits — $5.5 billion due Wednesday, and another $5.6 billion due in September — will be left unpaid, the mail agency said Monday. Postal officials said they also are studying whether they may need to delay other obligations. In the coming months, a $1.5 billion payment is due to the Labor Department for workers compensation, which for now it expects to make, as well as millions in interest payments to the Treasury.

The defaults won't stir any kind of catastrophe in day-to-day mail service. Post offices will stay open, mail trucks will run, employees will get paid, current retirees will get health benefits.

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Supervalu fires CEO, taps chairman for turnaround

NEW YORK (AP) — Supervalu Inc. on Monday fired its CEO and tapped Chairman Wayne Sales to lead its turnaround efforts, just weeks after the grocer reported dismal quarterly results and suggested it might put itself up for sale.

The Minneapolis-based operator of Albertson's, Jewel-Osco and other grocery chains said Craig Herkert, who was brought in as CEO in 2009 to help shake up things, was notified of his firing Sunday.

In a letter to employees, Sales vowed to move more quickly to cut prices and make "tough decisions" regarding cost-cutting. He said that the company's "biggest enemy" is time.

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Chicago Bridge & Iron to buy Shaw Group for $3.04 billion

THE WOODLANDS, Texas (AP) — Chicago Bridge & Iron Co. said Monday that it has agreed to buy Shaw Group Inc. for about $3.04 billion in cash and stock.

The Woodlands, Texas-based company, also known as CB&I, said the addition of Shaw, based in Baton Rouge, La., will create one of the world's most complete engineering and construction companies focused on the energy industry.

The combined company will employ nearly 50,000 people, have a backlog of over $28 billion, along with engineering and construction facilities across the world, CB&I said.

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Roper Industries buying Sunquest for about $1.42 billion

SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) — Medical and industrial equipment maker Roper Industries Inc. is buying hospital software company Sunquest Information Systems Inc. for approximately $1.42 billion.

Sunquest, based in Tucson, Ariz., provides diagnostic and laboratory software to more than 1,700 hospitals globally.

Roper says Sunquest will continue to operate under its own name and market products and services under their current brand names.

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Coca-Cola move seen as early CEO succession test

ATLANTA (AP) — The Coca-Cola Co. is streamlining its business and raising the profiles of two key executives, a move that could better position them to eventually succeed CEO Muhtar Kent.

Starting next year, the world's largest beverage company says its business will be built around three units: Coca-Cola Americas, Coca-Cola International and a bottling division, which will oversee the company's bottling operations outside North America.

The Atlanta-based company said Monday that Steve Cahillane, 47, will head the new Coca-Cola Americas unit, which will include Latin America. He currently heads Coca-Cola Refreshments in North America, a position he was named to in 2010.

The new Coca-Cola International unit will be headed by Ahmet Bozer, 52. Bozer, who joined the company in 1990 as financial control manager, currently oversees the region encompassing Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Irial Finan, 55, will continue as president of the bottling unit, Bottling Investments Group.

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Jackson to make 'The Hobbit' into a trilogy

BURBANK, Calif. (AP) — Peter Jackson is adding a third film to what was planned to be the two-part series "The Hobbit."

The director of the Oscar-winning "The Lord of the Rings" movies said Monday that after viewing a cut of the first film and part of the second that there was room for a third.

Jackson says in a statement that a lot of J.R.R. Tolkien's tale of Bilbo Baggins would remain untold if a third film wasn't made. The films are set in the fictional world of Middle-earth 60 years before "The Lord of the Rings."

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Apple: 3 million copies of Mountain Lion out in 4 days

NEW YORK (AP) — Apple says Mac users downloaded 3 million copies of Mountain Lion, its latest operating system, in the first four days it was available.

That makes it the fastest launch of an Apple operating system ever, the company says. It released Mountain Lion Wednesday.

Apple charges $20 for the software. That pays for downloads for all of a buyer's personal computers.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 2.65 points to close at 13,073.01. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 0.67 point to 1,385.30. The Nasdaq dropped 12.25 points to 2,945.84.

Benchmark crude fell by 35 cents to end at $89.78 per barrel. Brent crude, which sets the price for imported oil, lost 27 cents to end at $106.20 per barrel in London.

Heating oil lost 1.04 cents to end at $2.8791 per gallon, while wholesale gasoline added 4.9 cents to finish at $2.9368 per gallon.

Natural gas jumped 19.9 cents, or 6.6 percent, ending the day at $3.214 per 1,000 cubic feet, a high for the year.