Nike/Anheuser-Busch InBev: Dropping Armstrong
A week after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency detailed Lance Armstrong’s alleged use of performance-enhancing substances, Nike (NKE) and Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD) pulled the plug on endorsing the cyclist. Nike said it was ending Armstrong’s contract, and Anheuser-Busch said it won’t renew his contract at yearend. Both will continue to support his Livestrong foundation, which helps people affected by cancer. They had stood by Armstrong even after the USADA stripped him of his record seven Tour de France titles in August. Separately, Armstrong announced he was stepping down as chairman of Livestrong. He has repeatedly denied doping, saying he has never failed a drug test.
Microsoft: Fighting on Apple’s home turf
Microsoft’s (MSFT) Xbox Music Internet service rolled out Oct. 16 on Xbox game consoles and is slated for release soon on computers with Windows 8. The company looks to drain market share from Apple’s (AAPL) iTunes while competing directly against Pandora and Spotify. On computers and tablets, it’s ad-supported and free; on consoles and phones, it costs $9.99 per month. Microsoft also plans to sell its first computer, an iPad-challenging tablet dubbed Surface RT, for as little as $499 starting on Oct. 26.
Cigarette makers: Fighting smoking in Russia
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev says Philip Morris (MO), British American Tobacco (BTI), and other cigarette makers hooked Russians on smoking, and now the country plans to crack down on the habit. Higher taxes on tobacco products and proposed bans on public smoking and cigarette advertising are “just the beginning” of efforts to counter high mortality rates, Medvedev said. The tobacco industry has mounted a last-ditch effort to temper the measures, including asking for smoking sections in bars and restaurants and a continuation of marketing sponsorships.
Target: The showroom fights back
Target (TGT) has vowed to match the online prices of retailers including Amazon.com (AMZN), Wal-Mart (WMT), and Best Buy (BBY) during the holiday season as it works to fight “showrooming,” shoppers’ use of physical stores to browse merchandise before ordering it through the Web. The catch: Customers must purchase the item first, then bring their receipt to the customer service desk to get the better deal. They can also claim a refund later if they find an even lower price. The offer extends from Nov. 1 to Dec. 16, Chief Executive Officer Gregg Steinhafel said on Oct. 16.
Daimler: Discounts signal a broader downturn
Germany, which had bucked the decline this year in Europe’s auto market, is succumbing to the economic slump, prompting carmakers to push incentives to a two-year high. Deals include a €3,000 ($3,900) trade-in incentive for Daimler’s (DAI:GR) Mercedes-Benz, equaling the price cut Renault (RNO:FP) is offering for the Mégane, according to the automakers’ German websites. European sales by Mercedes, the world’s third-biggest luxury carmaker, fell 6.1 percent in September from a year earlier, with the drop in Germany almost double that rate.