Business Maverick

Business Maverick

11 May: Toyota back in the black

11 May: Toyota back in the black

Also today: Parents trash Pampers diapers on Facebook; Verizon Wireless moves smartphone markets; Former ABN Amro pays big-time for violating American banking act; Genetic testing kits to hit pharmacy shelves.

Toyota back in the black


Toyota’s net income for the 12 months ended 31 March leapt to $2.2 billion from a loss of $4.7 billion in the previous year, after it slashed costs and introduced sales incentives that brought customers back to its showrooms. That shows the market has a real short-term memory, or that the world’s largest car manufacturer’s apologies over its sudden acceleration problems have paid dividends, figuratively and literally, at 0.48 cents a share for the year. The Japanese vehicle maker now forecasts a further jump in earnings to some $3.32 billion to March 2011, shaking off the crippling effects of the world recession. Sales came to $20 billion, a 7.7% drop from a year ago, with sales falling 330,000 units to 7.24 million vehicles. For the final quarter, Toyota booked a net profit of $1.2 billion, which beat analysts’ forecasts.

Photo: Toyota Motor Corp President Akio Toyoda speaks during a news conference in Tokyo May 11, 2010. Toyota beat forecasts with a fourth-quarter profit on Tuesday as it cut costs and its aggressive sales incentives swiftly drew U.S. customers back to showrooms after its worst recall crisis. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao

Read more: The New York Times, AP, Reuters


Parents trash Pampers diapers on Facebook


Hundreds of American parents have voiced anger on Facebook about the latest disposable diapers from Pampers, claiming they cause serious rashes and need to be recalled. Large companies must be worried over the growing power of social media, after Facebook pages with names such as “Recall Pampers Dry Max diapers!” and “Pampers, just admit you made a mistake already!” put pressure on Procter & Gamble, the makers of the nappies. Now, the US consumer product safety commission says it’s investigating Pampers, while last week, one website reported there already was a Pampers recall, despite this turning out to be a false alarm. One distraught parent said her toddler daughter used nothing but Pampers since day one and never had any problems until she started wearing the new Dry Max variety. She then started screaming in pain from a rash.

Read more: The Christian Science Monitor, Minneapolis Star Tribune


Verizon Wireless moves smartphone markets


Verizon Wireless’ aggressive direct mail, newspaper and television advertising blitz for Android-powered handsets has rocketed the company’s first-quarter sales of smartphones ahead of Apple’s iPhone for the first time, according to reports. The campaign includes two-for-one deals for phones, helping Verizon sell 28% of all smartphones in the US and exceed Apple’s 21% share during the quarter. Research in Motion’s BlackBerry led sales with a 36% share. But beating Apple is an important marker for Verizon and Google’s Android open-source software, as the carrier has become a big player in the fast-growing market for smartphones. In the quarter, Verizon sales snapped at AT&T’s 32% share of the market, which sells both Apple’s iPhone and Android handsets from Motorola.

Read more: Business Week, Fierce Developer, IntoMobile


Former ABN Amro pays big-time for violating American banking act


Former Dutch banking giant ABN Amro, parts of which were taken over by Royal Bank of Scotland in 2007, will pay $500 million for violating the Bank Secrecy Act, according to the US justice department. The bank has acknowledged it altered payment documents from 1995 to December 2005 to exclude references to countries under sanction by the US government. The department says that even after the lender put in controls so the records would not be changed, it processed a limited number of transactions with such countries between 2006 and 2007. Royal Bank of Scotland, which needed to be bailed out during the global recession by the UK government at taxpayers’ expense, said ABN Amro’s actions were regrettable. ABN Amro was also charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the US.

Read more: The New York Times, Reuters


Genetic testing kits to hit pharmacy shelves


Genetic testing kits that assess the risk of people getting various diseases will soon be available in local pharmacies in the US after unlisted start-up firm Pathway Genomics indicated it will sell such kits through many of 7,500 Walgreens stores. The tests look at specific variations in a person’s DNA to derive information for 23 conditions including the risk of diabetes, heart disease and various forms of cancer. Until now, such kits were sold through the Internet or doctors’ offices. Pathway hopes that by putting the tests on pharmacy shelves it’ll gain an edge on rivals. Companies involved in this nascent industry appear to have garnered fewer than 100,000 customers combined since starting out nearly three years ago, and San Diego-based Pathway won’t say how many customers it has. The tests generally cost $300 or more, but some experts say they can’t provide accurate or significant information because not enough is known about genetic causes of disease, and that doctors should be involved in interpreting the results.

Read more: The New York Times, The Medical Quack


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