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Companies in Brief


McDonald's: Profiting from Snack Attacks

McDonald's (MCD) global sales growth exceeded expectations in May, powered by new menu items such as Frappes, smoothies, and snack wraps. Sales at restaurants open at least 13 months rose 4.8 percent, the company reported on June 8. Analysts had projected a 4.5 percent bump, according to estimates compiled by Bloomberg. The latest results are proof that McDonald's efforts to boost restaurant traffic outside the traditional lunch and dinner hours are succeeding.

Bank of America: Hit Rewind on Expansion Overseas

Bank of America (BAC) will pocket $2.5 billion from the sale of a minority stake in Mexico's third-largest bank. Santander is buying back a 24.9 percent holding in its Mexican unit it sold for $1.6 billion in 2003. Back then the Spanish lender was unloading assets in Latin America and Europe to offset losses caused by Argentina's debt default and a plunge in Brazil's currency. Now it's BofA's turn to retrench. The Charlotte (N.C.)-based institution pledged to sell assets as a condition of a $45 billion bailout. BofA announced plans to cash out of Brazil's Banco Itaú last month.

Airbus: Orders for the A380 Are Gaining Altitude

On June 8, Emirates Airline announced it had placed an order for 32 A380s, bringing its total fleet of the Airbus superjumbos to 90. The order, Airbus' biggest to date, is valued at $11.5 billion. Boeing's (BA) archrival can sure use the business. Deliveries of the world's largest plane, which seats up to 800 passengers, are running way behind schedule, and the A380 is still years away from becoming profitable.

Foster's Group: The Chinese Have a Taste for Aussie Brewers

Tsingtao Brewery and Bright Food Group of China may bid for Foster's Group beer and wine units. The Australian company said last month it plans to split the two into separate companies in 2011. Foster's brewery commands about half the Australian market, with brands including its namesake lager and Victoria Bitter, and could be worth more than $9.8 billion, according to analysts' estimates. The wine business, the world's second-largest, may fetch as much as $3.3 billion. Tsingtao has expressed interest in the beer division, according to the Beijing-based Economic Observer. Shanghai-based Bright Food is looking at both of Foster's units, says the Australian Financial Review.

Microsoft: A Securities Sale Could Kick-Start a Market

Microsoft's (MSFT) June 9 sale of $1.1 billion of convertible notes may help the market for such paper rebound from a two-month slump. Sales in the U.S. of debt that can be exchanged for stock fell 41 percent in May, to $2.2 billion, from this year's peak in March. Yet there is pent-up demand for investment-grade convertible bonds, say bankers. Buyers of Microsoft's three-year, zero-coupon notes can swap them for shares if the stock rises 33 percent from its current price.

Rosatom: A Russian Nuclear Player Looks West

Russia's Rosatom is paying $610 million for a controlling stake in Uranium One, a Canadian company that has assets in Russia, the U.S., and Australia. State-owned Rosatom needs to tap new sources of uranium to fuel its international expansion plans. The company is in talks to build nuclear power plants in Armenia, the Czech Republic, Egypt, Vietnam, and Venezuela.

Sprint: The Mobile Carrier Needs a Hit Handset

Sprint (S) announced that its new HTC Evo 4G handset broke the company's one-day sales record on its June 4 debut. The carrier did not provide figures, but independent reports peg the day's sales at 320,000. Sprint is counting on the Evo, which costs $199 with a two-year contract, to keep subscribers from defecting to rivals. More than half a million did so last quarter.

ESL Partners: Eddie Lampert May Dodge a Tax Bullet

Billionaire Edward Lampert may have found a way to shield himself from millions of dollars in taxes under legislation that would raise levies on profits at private equity firms. Lampert's ESL Partners and affiliates distributed about $829 million of stock in Sears Holdings (SHLD), AutoNation (AN), and AutoZone (AZO) to him on June 2, according to regulatory filings. By taking direct ownership of the shares, Lampert will be taxed at the capital-gains rate of 15 percent when the stock is sold. That is far less than his fund would have to pay under the bill. Documents filed with the SEC described the transfers as "an internal restructuring."


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