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Closing Bell: Amazon.com


Daniel Mudd is no stranger to crisis. As president of GE Capital's Asia-Pacific operation in the late '90s, he guided the lender through the region's financial meltdown.

But nothing tops the challenge Mudd now faces as interim chief executive of Fannie Mae (FNM). Promoted from COO on Dec. 21 to replace Chairman and CEO Franklin Raines, the 46-year-old Mudd must quell turmoil after the mortgage giant's management shake-up. Also on his to-do list: launch what could be a two-year effort to revise financial statements that overstated profits by $9 billion and figure out how to raise anywhere from $3 billion to $13 billion in capital. And all this must be undertaken as Fannie's regulator pushes for an outsider to assume the CEO title permanently.

Mudd's first day on the job reflected Fannie's new status: He paid a call on the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, the regulator that Raines often battled, to pledge his cooperation. For this crisis, humility may be Mudd's best weapon.

Keep on truckin': Ford Motor (F) expects record sales of its full-size F-series pickup trucks for 2004, topping 2001'speak of nearly912,000. Despite the entry of Japanese rivals Toyota (TM) and Nissan (NSANY) into the lucrative segment, Ford's F-150 pickups have kept up brisk sales since their 2003 redesign. The auto maker's larger F-250 and F-350 Super Duty trucks, revamped last summer, are also hits. Big pickups have been a bright spot at Ford, which lost 1.2 points of U.S. market share in 2004. Just as bad, the Ford Div.'s 17-year reign as the top-selling brand in the U.S. may have come to an end. Chevrolet, which has been piling on the rebates, held a 8,600-vehicle lead over its domestic rival in late November. Ford hopes a crop of new models will shore up car sales in 2005.

Blockbuster (BBI) threatened to launch a $1 billion hostile bid for No. 2 video chain Hollywood Entertainment (HLYW) by mid-January. Blockbuster, which says it will bid $11.50 a share, has been stymied in merger talks for five weeks by Hollywood board members who apparently favor a $10.25 leveraged buyout offer from Hollywood CEO Mark Wattles and buyout firm Leonard Green. Blockbuster's merger talks with Hollywood began after financier Carl Icahn took stakes in both companies and urged them to combine. Blockbuster said it might raise its offer higher than $11.50 if Hollywood cooperates.

Microsoft (MSFT) lost its bid to put European sanctions against the company on hold. On Dec. 22, Bo Vesterdorf, the president of the European Court of First Instance, rejected Microsoft's request to delay remedies included in the European Commission's March decision that the software giant had violated European antitrust law. That means that Microsoft will have to share proprietary information about its Windows operating system with the competition while it appeals the decision. It must also offer a version of Windows without its audio and video player. Microsoft had hoped a delay in the remedies would restart settlement talks. Now it must litigate the case.

With the folksy image of his St. Louis firm sullied, Edward Jones & Co. Chief Douglas Hill is calling it quits. Hill will step down as managing general partner at the end of 2005. He'll also pay $3 million -- part of a $75 million overall settlement by the firm -- to resolve enforcement proceedings by the Securities & Exchange Commission, NASD, and the New York Stock Exchange. Regulators alleged that Jones collected millions each year from mutual funds on top of commissions, pitching these funds to clients as "preferred" without disclosing the extra payments. The firm neither admitted nor denied wrongdoing, though it accepted a formal censure. A spokeswoman for Jones says Hill declined to comment. His lawyer didn't return phone calls.

-- Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta ordered an audit of the airline industry.

-- Home Depot (HD) will sell large appliances online.

-- Pfizer (PFE) won approval to sell its medicine Vfend to treat bloodstream infections.

This holiday season, many shoppers decided to click instead of drive. Amazon.com (AMZN) set a new record of 2.8 million items sold on a single day. Investors smelled a post-Christmas bargain, bidding up Amazon's stock 14.6%, to $44.63, in the two days ended on Dec. 28.


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