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Lennar (LEN), the No. 3 U.S. homebuilder, reported better-than-anticipated results for the third quarter. Profit for the three months ended Aug. 31 was $30 million, compared with a loss of $171.6 million for the same period last year. The Miami-based company's star performer was its Rialto Investments division, which focuses on managing and restructuring distressed real estate assets, including a large stake in a $3 billion portfolio of loans acquired from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. in February. Despite renewed signs of life in the market—housing starts were up 10.5 percent in August—Lennar President and CEO Stuart Miller cautioned it's too early "to have a sigh of relief."
Microsoft (MSFT) is expanding its Zune music and movie download service to Europe, betting that the Continent's more than 10 million users of the company's Xbox games console will help it compete with Apple (AAPL). Aimed at users of Windows computers, Xbox consoles, and smartphones equipped with the forthcoming Windows Phone 7 operating system, Zune will be available in the U.K., France, Italy, Germany, and Spain this fall. Microsoft also is partnering with local content producers to provide offerings for European markets.
Japan's Nissan Motor is in discussions with its Chinese partner, Dongfeng Motor, about sharing its electric-vehicle technology and jointly producing the Nissan Leaf electric car, says CEO Carlos Ghosn. The talks come as China mulls New rules for how foreign automakers produce and market electric cars and hybrids. Some foreign executives worry that China's plan would require a transfer of knowhow that would mean losing control of their technology.
Seagate (STX), the world's largest marker of hard-disk drives, was in talks with previous owners TPG Capital and Silver Lake Partners about taking the company private again in a $7 billion deal, according to people privy to the discussions. The negotiations collapsed because Seagate wasn't meeting some of the financial goals set by the firms. While buyout firms are on the lookout for targets as the economy stabilizes, there have only been $68.1 billion in leveraged buyouts announced so far this year, vs. $443.6 billion for the same period of 2007.
Staggering under the weight of its $900 million debt, Blockbuster (BBI) was set to file for Chapter 11 protection from creditors at press time. The Dallas-based company intends to use a $125 million loan to reorganize so it can compete with rivals such as Netflix (NFLX) in renting movies online. The restructuring plan calls for a group of senior bondholders—including billionaire investor Carl Icahn, who holds about one-third of the company's bonds—to swap their debt for Blockbuster stock, say people with knowledge of the discussions.
— Lufthansa: Christoph Franz named CEO
— Verizon Wireless: Lowell McAdam named CEO
— UniCredit: CEO Alessandro Profumo resigns
— Astraeus Airlines: Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden fame to be head of marketing