23 March: Google sneaks by Europe trademark law
Also today: Apparel maker Phillips-Van Heusen pulls in profit ahead of Tommy Hilfiger buyout; SA current account deficit pleases; Rosie O’Donnell set to slot in for Oprah; Airline passengers get big boost over waiting time; MGM roars with pain at bid; Bank of China’s red-hot profit points to lending problems; Japanese insurer sets tone for IPO market.
Google sneaks by Europe trademark law
Google’s won a dispute with luxury goods maker LVMH, which owns Louis Vuitton, Moet & Chandon champagne, and Dior perfume among other brands. The European Court of Justice says Google’s practice of selling keywords in advertising searches to the highest bidder doesn’t infringe trademark law, despite users searching for branded goods also possibly being shown rival brands. Google’s Adword service allows buyers to top sponsored listings of search results generated by a query, and is a big source of revenue for the search-engine firm. One intellectual property expert said if a user is looking for a particular model of car, they expect to see other car dealers in addition to the manufacturer in search results. He also said Google has strict policies that forbid the advertising of counterfeit goods.
Apparel maker Phillips-Van Heusen pulls in profit ahead of Tommy Hilfiger buyout
US apparel maker Phillips-Van Heusen can thank its Calvin Klein brand in posting a $27 million fourth-quarter profit that beat Wall Street expectations. The firm’s just agreed to buy Tommy Hilfiger for $3 billion in cash and stock, so it’s good to be in the black after a year ago loss of $37.9 million. Revenues rose 6% to $614.6 million in the quarter, with a 22% jump in royalty revenue from Calvin Klein business. Tommy Hilfiger will add another high-profile brand name to the company’s portfolio. Much of its sales are in Europe, and it’s looking for further international expansion.
SA current account deficit pleases
South Africa’s current account deficit eased to 2.8% in the fourth quarter, from a revised 3.1% in the third quarter, to reach its lowest in four-and-a-half years. The deficit was 4% of gross domestic product last year, from 7.1% in 2008, as the recession cut imports. The latest drop was spurred by a recovery in global demand and surging commodity prices, according to the Reserve Bank’s Quarterly Bulletin. The deficit may widen again as a strong rand boosts spending on imports, and government spends more on roads, railways and power plants.
Rosie O’Donnell set to slot in for Oprah
US television producers, Dick Robertson and Scott Carlin, confirmed they’ve formed a company with talk show host Rosie O’Donnell to syndicate her show to TV stations after “The Oprah Winfrey Show” ends. Stations are revamping their offerings when Winfrey quits her slot in September 2011. The producers reckon O’Donnell’s show will take over from Oprah in many cities, and see it as a golden opportunity to fill the outgoing queen of talk’s throne.
Airline passengers get big boost over waiting time
The US government is freeing airline passengers stuck on the tarmac for three hours or more. A new consumer-protection rule allows them off the plane from April 29, forcing airlines to get their acts together, or face even more logistical problems. Recently, passengers sat through an agonising Virgin America holdup of more than four hours on the runway of an airport in New York state. Other new policies include one that will require more disclosure by airlines about flight delays before a passenger buys a ticket, so customers can avoid the wait. It sounds like good, sensible pressure that could force the industry to address the causes of delays. But it’s going to be controversial, as airlines such as American say gridlock caused by construction at JFK will lead them to cancel flights rather than risk penalties of up to $9 million per plane.
MGM roars with pain at bid
Hollywood studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer has been valued at between $1.2 billion and $1.5 billion in bids by Time Warner, Lions Gate Entertainment and Access Industries. Time Warner put in the highest bid after MGM — which is $3.7 billion in debt — had hoped for bids of at least $2 billion. It’s seen as the company most likely to purchase MGM and its library of classics such as the James Bond franchise. The studio says it’ll review the bids over coming weeks. The most recent bid deadline was unofficially extended after Time Warner failed to put in a bid.
Bank of China’s red-hot profit points to lending problems
China’s third-largest bank by market value, Bank of China, posted fourth-quarter profits that were four times higher than a year earlier, helped by a credit boom and lower impairment losses. It saw net income of $2.8 billion on a provisional basis, beating analysts’ estimates. The bank plans to sell as much as $6 billion in bonds and may raise more cash by issuing shares after record lending gouged its financial reserves. But one industry analyst said the second half of this year might be the turning point for the banking industry because non-performing loans will creep out of the woodwork. China’s financial authorities have told banks to improve reserves and rein in lending, after a glut of real estate lending threatened to become a bubble.
Japanese insurer sets tone for IPO market
Japan’s second largest life insurer, Dai-ichi Mutual’s has opted for a middle-of-the-range $1,555.41 share price for its $11 billion initial public offering. That means it’s likely approaching the world’s biggest IPO in two years with caution. The price was lower than many market watchers expected, suggesting Dai-ichi Life wants to ensure investors make a profit from the offering. Analysts say the pricing reflects Dai-ichi’s uncertain earnings prospects in Japan, where an aging population and shrinking life insurance business is forcing it to look for growth opportunities abroad. One observer said that IPOs that aren’t priced at the top end of their price range are highly likely to struggle after the market debut.