Business Maverick

Business Maverick

16 April: Liverpool FC up for sale

16 April: Liverpool FC up for sale

Also today: Google profit, sales spiral skywards; British tobacco giants fined for anti-competitive practices; AMD profits handsomely on tech rebound; Regulators probing each and every one of Toyota’s past misdeeds; Boston Scientific resumes sales of defibrillators; Sony Ericsson surprises market.

Liverpool FC up for sale


The American owners of Liverpool Football Club say that, by appointing a new chairman, they’re definitely selling the debt-wracked Premier League outfit. Tom Hicks and George Gillett have asked British Airways boss Martin Broughton to step into the hot seat and handle the sale. The pair say they’ve had numerous expressions of interest, and asked Barclays Capital to advise them. The Anfield club’s $366 million in red, mostly owing to far more debt-strapped British bank RBS. Liverpool’s got unresolved funding issues for a new stadium in Stanley Park and needs to address providing a substantial transfer budget for manager Rafael Benitez.

Read more: The Press Association, Agence France-Presse, BBC, Guardian


Google profit, sales spiral skywards


Google’s in the wars, fighting Apple and Microsoft for market share, and the Chinese government for being a typical one-party state, but when it comes to online advertising sales, everything’s going sweetly. The world’s largest search-engine company beat forecasts for net income in the first quarter of 2010; profits leapt more than 37% from the same period a year ago, with sales spiralling 23% higher against the earlier quarter. But the stock fell 5% after the announcement, leading analysts to say that given the markets’ stellar performance of late, Google’s numbers lacked the significant earnings momentum that investors were looking for. It also hired 800 employees in the quarter, dampening earnings growth.  

Read more: The New York Times, Bloomberg, AP


British tobacco giants fined for anti-competitive practices


Britain’s Office of Fair Trading fined tobacco majors Imperial Tobacco and Gallaher and nine big retailers a total of $350 million for unlawful tobacco pricing practices between 2001 and 2003, saying they linked the price of some brands to rival brands in order to limit competition. It’s the biggest combined fine ever handed out by the OFT for anti-competitive practices. Imperial, which owns the Embassy and John Player brands, was handed the single biggest penalty, of $173 million. Along with Gallaher – which owns Benson & Hedges and Silk Cut – it was accused of asking retailers to match price changes on its rival’s equivalent brands. Imperial said that far from being anti-competitive, the arrangements benefited consumers, adding it would appeal the decision in court.

Read more: BBC, The Wall Street Journal, OFT


AMD profits handsomely on tech rebound


Days after Intel posted a quadrupled first-quarter profit from last year, rival Advanced Micro Devices reported first-quarter net income of $257 million, from a $416 million loss a year earlier, adding to evidence that demand for personal computers is increasing. Revenue rose 34%, to $1.57 billion. Intel is predicting solid second-quarter profit, helped by rising demand for notebooks and servers, after global industry shipments exceeded projections in the first quarter, rising 27%. One analyst said demand was good, but that Intel got more traction than AMD because of new products and better average selling prices.

Photo: Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard celebrates his goal against Birmingham City during their English Premier League soccer match at St Andrew’s in Birmingham, central England, April 4, 2010. REUTERS/Darren Staples

Read more: Bloomberg, ZDNet, BBC, CNN, Electronista


Regulators probing each and every one of Toyota’s past misdeeds


Toyota’s in more hot water with US federal regulators, having recalled its Venza model in Canada late last year over sticky floor mats affecting gas pedals, but not launching a similar recall in the American market until six weeks later. US regulators recently fined Toyota a record $16.4 million for failing to quickly recall 2.3 million vehicles to correct sudden acceleration problems. The LA Times says that under the law, car makers have five business days to notify the government after finding a potential defect. The nation’s traffic enforcement agency said it would continue to hold Toyota accountable for any past violations.

Read more: Los Angeles Times, AP


Boston Scientific resumes sales of defibrillators


Medical supply firm Boston Scientific resumed US defibrillator sales after they were suspended a month back after it neglected to notify the Food and Drug Administration of manufacturing changes. (The defibrillators sense when a user’s heart is beating erratically and send an electrical jolt to interrupt the life-threatening rhythm.) That removes uncertainty that’s  hung over the company, which analysts had said could lead to a loss of market share, despite the changes being unrelated to the safety of the devices.

Read more: The New York Times, Market Watch


Sony Ericsson surprises market


Sony Ericsson garnered a surprise $28 million profit for the first three months of 2010, lifted by new products and cost savings, and compared with a loss of $397 in the period a year ago. But cellphone sales were 28% lower from a year ago at 10.5 million units, missing analyst forecasts which ranged from 11.5 million to 15.7 million phones. The company’s busy catching up with manufacturers that were faster in launching smartphones. Even though Sony Ericsson says its Xperia X10 and Vivaz smartphones were particularly well received, sales for the quarter fell to $1.9 billion from $2.36 billion for the same period in 2009, but unit prices were higher.

Read more: Reuters, BBC, Engadget


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