Companies in Brief
Barnes & Noble: After Booking Losses, a Bookseller on Sale
Yielding to pressure from investors as a shift to digital books hits the bottom line, the biggest U.S. bookstore chain has put itself on the block. In May billionaire Ron Burkle, who owns 19 percent of Barnes & Noble (BKS), launched a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the bookseller's "poison pill" defense against takeovers to boost the value of his holding; the sale could give him what he wants. Chairman Leonard Riggio, B&N's biggest shareholder, says he may join with a group that will bid for the company. In June the chain forecast a possible loss of 40 cents a share for the current fiscal year due to a $140 million investment in its digital book unit.
Research in Motion: Too Secure for Saudi Snoops
Saudi Arabia has ordered the suspension of BlackBerry's instant-message service because officials can't monitor the traffic on RIM's (RIMM) encrypted network. Saudi phone companies and RIM are in talks over the ban, which is scheduled to begin on Aug. 6. RIM faces mounting challenges as some developing countries tighten restrictions on mobile communications. The United Arab Emirates, India, and Indonesia have also threatened to suspend BlackBerry services. The controversy coincides with the debut of BlackBerry's touchscreen Torch, meant to compete with Apple's (AAPL) iPhone.
Google: Trademarked Ad Words? No Problem
Google (GOOG) said on Aug. 4 it will let European advertisers buy search-ad terms even if they are another company's trademark. The decision stems from a European court ruling in March that freed Google from liability over the sale of trademarked search terms. It's a setback for luxury-goods makers and others who hoped to prevent rivals and counterfeiters from grabbing their customers on search engines.
Mexicana: Bankruptcy for Mexico's Top Airline
Compañía Mexicana de Aviación, Mexico's biggest airline by passengers, has filed for protection from creditors in Mexico and the U.S. after executives said they had failed to reach cost-saving agreements with unions. The U.S. filing lists more than $500 million in assets and $1 billion in debt. The carrier blames losses on a rise in jet fuel prices, a 2009 flu epidemic that hurt Mexican tourism, and the global recession. The push to cut pay comes as low-cost competitors Volaris and Interjet eat into Mexicana's business. The 87-year-old company said the bankruptcy won't affect operations. Mexicana's low-cost affiliates, Click and Link, weren't included in the filing.
Procter & Gamble: A Potential Profit Washout
P&G's (PG) first-quarter forecast fell short of analysts' projections as financially strapped consumers turn away from name brands. On Aug. 3 shares at the maker of Tide and Crest declined the most in a year. The household-products giant is boosting spending on promotions and new products.
Genzyme: France's Sanofi Is on the Hunt
Genzyme (GENZ), the world's largest maker of medicines for genetic diseases, may be acquired by Paris-based Sanofi-Aventis (SNY), according to two people with knowledge of the matter. Sanofi is interested in buying Genzyme to help replace revenue it will lose as its drugs face competition from generics. Sanofi is offering $67 to $70 per share, while Genzyme shareholders want $80.
Washington Post: Newsweek Sold to an Audio Kingpin
Sidney Harman, founder of audio-equipment maker Harman International (HAR) and husband of U.S. Representative Jane Harman (D-Calif.), has agreed to buy Newsweek from Washington Post Co. (WPO), ending a three-month bidding process. The terms of the deal weren't disclosed. Since 2007, Newsweek has lost $44 million. Harman, 91, agreed to keep most of the magazine's 300-plus employees, while Post Co. will assume severance costs for any Newsweek employees who are dismissed. Newsweek's editor, Jon Meacham, announced that he would leave once the deal is complete. Harman says he is searching for a replacement.