Sony: Focusing on Image Sensors
Sony (SNE) will invest $1.2 billion over the next fiscal year to double its production capacity of image sensors—devices used in digital cameras and mobile phones to convert optical images into electrical signals—to 50,000 a month. The maker of Cyber-shot cameras will purchase a Toshiba factory that makes chips for PlayStation 3 game consoles and convert it into an image sensor production plant. Sony hopes to increase its share of the image sensor market to 30 percent, up from 10 percent for the year ending in March 2011. Toshiba, meanwhile, plans to improve the profitability of its chip business by phasing out low-end chips and teaming up with rivals such as Samsung to cut expenses.
Yukos Oil: A Guilty Verdict Raises Concerns
A Moscow judge found Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the jailed former head of Yukos Oil, guilty of embezzling crude in a trial that has heightened European and U.S. concerns about Russia's rule of law. Once Russia's richest man, Khodorkovsky is already serving an eight-year sentence for fraud and tax evasion. He was scheduled for release in October 2011 but now faces several more years behind bars. The businessman has called the charges retribution for his political opposition to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Russia's President at the time of his arrest. Yukos went bankrupt and was dismembered amid $30 billion of tax claims.
DuPont: Snapping Up More Corn and Soy
DuPont's (DD) seed subsidiary, Pioneer Hi-Bred, has acquired two U.S. companies—Ohio-based Seed Consultants and Louisiana-based Terral Seed—as part of an expansion in corn and soybeans. Terms of the deals weren't disclosed. Pioneer says it also bought seed companies in Nebraska, Iowa, and Indiana in December. The acquisitions are part of Pioneer's push to make its seed genetics available through a wider network of distributors. Pioneer says it currently accounts for 5 percent of U.S. corn seed and soybean markets.
Skype Technologies: Compensating for a 30-Hour Crash
Skype Technologies will refund paying customers who couldn't use its service during a Christmastime outage that lasted more than 30 hours. The crash comes at a challenging time for Skype, which is trying to persuade companies to pay for its calling and premium services, such as group videoconferencing, in the runup to its initial public offering. Skype will give prepaid and pay-as-you-go users 30 minutes of free calling, and active subscribers will get a week's extension of their subscriptions. The cause of the disruption has not been disclosed.
Microsoft: Long Odds in Las Vegas
Microsoft (MSFT) is poised to unveil a version of Windows designed for tablets at the Consumer Electronics Show that kicks off on Jan. 6 in Las Vegas, according to people with knowledge of the plan. The company hopes to step up competition with Apple by introducing a full computer operating system that works with technology by ARM Holdings (ARMH), which currently runs on chips made by Qualcomm (QCOM), Texas Instruments (TXN), and Samsung Electronics. That's in contrast to Apple (AAPL), which uses a mobile-phone operating system as the basis for the iPad. Skeptics say Microsoft has little chance of catching Apple, which Goldman Sachs (GS) analysts say may sell up to 37.2 million iPads in 2011.
On the Move
— TNK-BP: Maxim Barsky's appointment as CEO delayed
— Cephalon (CEPH): J. Kevin Buchi named CEO
— Groupon: Jason Child, former Amazon.com (AMZN) vice-president for finance, appointed CFO