Facebook in talks to buy Israel’s Waze for up to $1 billion: report

MENLO PARK, Calif., Fri May 10, 2013 — Facebook Inc. is in advanced talks to acquire Israeli mobile satellite navigation start-up Waze for $800 million to $1 billion, business daily Calcalist reported.

The deal, which would be Facebook’s largest acquisition, would give the social networking company a mapping service and allow it to better compete with Google Inc. and Apple Inc.
Maps and navigation services have become a key asset for technology companies as consumers increasingly adopt smartphones and other mobile devices.
Waze uses satellite signals from members’ smartphones to generate maps and traffic data, which it then shares with other users, offering real-time traffic info.
Due diligence between Waze and Facebook is underway after a term sheet was signed, Calcalist said, adding that talks began six months ago.
Officials at Waze and Facebook declined to comment on the report.
Facebook’s largest deal to date is the September acquisition of photo-sharing app, Instagram. Facebook agreed to buy the company for $1 billion in cash and stock, though the actual price it paid was $715 million due to declines in Facebook’s share price.
The four-year-old Waze, which has 47 million users, has raised $67 million in funding to date from firms including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Blue Run Ventures and semiconductor company Qualcomm Inc.

Fannie Mae to send $59.4 billion to Treasury

WASHINGTON, Thu May 9, 2013 — Fannie Mae, the nation’s biggest mortgage finance company, said on Thursday it will pay $59.4 billion in dividends to the U.S. Treasury after a record profit in the first quarter that reflecting a multibillion dollar gain from reversing an earlier writedown of tax benefits.
The government-controlled company reported pretax income of $8.1 billion for the quarter and booked an additional gain of $50.6 billion on the tax assets, resulting in net income of $58.7 billion. That compared to a $2.7 billion profit in the same three months a year earlier.
Since its return to profitability, Fannie Mae has been considering when to start counting potential tax credits as part of its net worth.
“After evaluating the recoverability of Fannie Mae’s deferred tax assets … the company determined that the factors in favor of releasing the allowance outweighed the factors in favor of maintaining it,” Fannie Mae said in a statement.
Fannie Mae has received about $116 billion in taxpayer funds since September 2008, when it was seized by regulators along with Freddie Mac. By the end of June, Fannie Mae will have paid $95 billion in dividends to Treasury for the government’s stake, leaving the net cost of its bailout at about $21 billion.
Fannie Mae and sibling Freddie Mac buy home loans and package them into securities, ensuring that investors receive payments even when borrowers default. Both the Obama administration and Congress want to eventually wind them down.

Whole Foods store sales accelerate, shares rise

AUSTIN, Texas, Wed May 8, 2013 — Whole Foods Market Inc. said store sales have rebounded as it expands efforts to lower prices and reach beyond its core of upscale shoppers by adding more locations, and its shares rose more than 8 percent after hours.
The news from the largest U.S. natural and organic grocery chain dispelled concerns that its store sales were slowing due to competition and sluggish U.S. economic growth.
Same-store sales, a key gauge of performance for retailers, rose 6.9 percent for Whole Foods’ fiscal second quarter that ended April 14. So far this quarter, those sales are up 9.4 percent.
“The demand for fresh, healthy foods continues to grow,” John Mackey, co-founder and co-chief executive officer of Whole Foods Market, said in a statement.
About three weeks into the second quarter, Whole Foods had said its same-store sales growth had cooled to 6.4 percent, dampened by winter storm Nemo and a shift in the day of the week of Valentine’s Day. Analysts also attributed the slower growth to the U.S. payroll tax increase that lowered take home pay.
This quarter’s sales results got a 200 basis point boost from Team Member Appreciation Double Discount Day, but still showed the kind of improvement investors were seeking.
“Even though the 9.4 (percent gain) is more like a 7.4 (percent gain), it’s still a pick up,” BB&T Capital Markets analyst Andy Wolf said.

March home prices see biggest yearly gain in 7 years: CoreLogic

NEW YORK, Tue May 7, 2013 — Home prices rose in March, marking the biggest annual increase in seven years, in the latest sign of strength for the recovering housing market, a report from CoreLogic showed on Tuesday.

CoreLogic’s home price index jumped 1.9 percent from the previous month and accelerated by 10.5 percent compared to March last year.

That was the biggest year-over-year increase since March 2006, CoreLogic said.

Prices were even stronger excluding distressed sales, rising 2.4 percent from February and 10.7 percent from the year before. Distressed sales include homes that are in danger of foreclosure and properties that have already been seized by lenders.

Home prices have been rising since last year, helped by investor demand and tighter inventory. The top five states with the biggest gains in prices were Nevada, California, Arizona, Idaho and Oregon.

Prices likely continued to rise in April, CoreLogic said, though at a slower pace. Prices are seen rising 1.3 percent for the month and 9.6 percent on an annual basis.

Warren Buffett says U.S. economy gradually improving

OMAHA, Neb., Mon May 6, 2013 — Warren Buffett said on Monday the U.S. economy is gradually improving, helped by the efforts of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to stimulate it.

Speaking on CNBC television, Buffett said the economy is benefiting from improvement in areas that had not previously performed well, particularly homebuilding.

He also said the improved economy is helping create increased traffic for NetJets, Berkshire’s private plane unit.

“The economy is moving forward, but at a slow pace,” he said. “Demand has come back, but slowly.”

Buffett said low benchmark interest rates, including overnight rates that have been effectively zero since late 2008, can help stimulate demand.

“When interest rates are low, and people expect them to stay low for a while, it pushes up the value of all other assets,” he said. “Interest rates act like gravity for all other asset prices.”

Buffett called Bernanke “a gutsy guy” who has “done very, very well in terms of what he has done for the United States.”

Last week, the Fed said it will continue to buy $85 billion of bonds per month to keep interest rates low and spur growth, and said it will step up purchases if needed.

The economy grew at a 2.5 percent annualized rate in the first quarter.

Buffett spoke on CNBC after Berkshire’s annual shareholders meeting over the weekend here.

US Airways says April unit revenue down 4 percent

TEMPE, Ariz., Fri May 3, 2013 — US Airways Group on Friday said an important revenue measure fell in April, as it grappled with disruptions caused by furloughs of U.S. air traffic control staffers.

Unit revenue, or passenger revenue per available seat mile, fell about 4 percent last month from a year earlier for US Airways and its regional airlines, the carrier said.

US Airways, which plans to merge with AMR Corp. unit American Airlines and form the world’s largest carrier, cautioned last week that business demand was being pressured by federal spending cuts under the U.S. sequestration process.

Staff furloughs at U.S. air traffic control towers began April 21, causing flight delays at some airports. The Federal Aviation Administration suspended the furloughs after passage last week of a bill allowing the agency to shift money within its budget to halt them.

“We are pleased that the situation is resolved and we have returned to a more normal operating environment,” US Air President Scott Kirby said in the company’s Friday statement.

On Thursday, Delta Air Lines Inc. reported a 2 percent drop in April unit revenue due to soft U.S. demand and unfavorable effects from the weaker yen.

U.S. planned layoffs at lowest of the year in April: Challenger

NEW YORK, Thu May 2, 2013 — The number of planned layoffs at U.S. firms fell to their lowest level of the year in April, suggesting slowing economic growth has not translated into significant job losses, a report showed on Thursday.

Employers announced 38,121 planned job cuts last month, down nearly 23 percent from 49,255 in March, according to the report from consultants Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. It was the lowest level since last December.

April’s layoffs were also down 6 percent from a year ago. So far this year, employers have announced 183,162 cuts, just slightly below the 183,653 that were seen in the first four months of last year.

After a pickup in economic growth in the beginning of the year, recent data suggests the recovery cooled heading into the second quarter. U.S. companies hired at their slowest pace in seven months in April, while the jobs report from the government due on Friday is expected to remain lackluster.

Still, the recent slowdown has yet to result in increased or widespread downsizing, said John Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

The retail sector saw the biggest number of job cuts as companies reduced 5,897 positions, though that was down significantly from March’s 16,445 layoffs.

The report comes a day ahead of the U.S. Labor Department’s key jobs report, which is forecast to show the economy created 145,000 jobs last month, rebounding from March’s disappointing 88,000.

Pfizer falls short of expectations and trims 2013 outlook

NEW YORK, Tue Apr 30, 2013 — Pfizer Inc. reported lower-than-expected quarterly earnings and revenue and the largest U.S. drugmaker trimmed its full-year profit outlook, sending shares down 5 percent in premarket trading.

The company said on Tuesday it earned $2.75 billion, or 38 cents per share, in the first quarter. That compared with $1.79 billion, or 24 cents per share, in the year-earlier period, when Pfizer took charges to boost productivity and address legal matters.

Excluding special items, Pfizer earned 54 cents per share. Analysts, on average, expected 55 cents per share.

Global revenue fell 9 percent to $13.5 billion, below Wall Street expectations of $13.99 billion, hurt by wholesaler purchasing patterns that led to lower demand for its Prevnar vaccines against pneumococcal bacteria.

Pfizer expects full-year 2013 earnings of $2.14 to $2.24 per share, down from its previous forecast of $2.20 to $2.30. It noted that the falling Japanese yen was hurting company sales in that important market.

The stock dropped nearly 5 percent to $29.01 in premarket trading.


Dell investors may still gain after Blackstone pullout: Barron’s

NEW YORK, Mon Apr 29, 2013 — Dell shareholders could still stand to profit even after Blackstone Group LP withdrew its bid to buy the world’s No. 3 personal computer maker more than a week ago, Barron’s said.

On April 19, Blackstone’s move knocked Dell shares to a two-month low and narrowed the fight for Dell between activist investor Carl Icahn and the company’s founder Michael Dell and Silver Lake Partners, the newspaper said.

Blackstone dropped its bid for Dell at $14.25 a share, citing deteriorating demand for PCs.

On Friday, Dell’s stock closed at $13.35, below the $13.65-a-share proposed buyout from its founder and Silver Lake.

“Dell shares now look appealing because investors stand to make a small profit if the Michael Dell-led offer gets approved,” the paper said in its April 29 edition.

Icahn and Southeastern Asset Management, Dell’s largest independent shareholder that complained the buyout offer being too low, have valued the company at more than $20 a share, Barron’s said.

Icahn proposed in early March, about a month after the Dell/Silver Lake’s announced its bid, for a $9-a-share special dividend. He has not made a formal offer for Dell, which Barron’s said could involve a tender of 58 percent of the PC marker’s stock at $15 per share.

If a Icahn offer does not emerge, Wall Street analysts reckon Dell might fall as low as $10 a share, the paper said.

The planned buyout, which has angered Southeastern and other major investors, faces a tough shot of being approved, excluding its founder who owns 16 percent of the company, according to the paper.

If Dell/Silver Lake bid fails, it will be “welcome news for Dell investors, who could then benefit from alternatives that offer immediate and long-term benefits that probably far exceed $13.65 a share,” Barron’s said.

Goodyear posts stronger-than-expected profit

DETROIT, Fri Apr 26, 2013 — Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. on Friday posted a stronger-than-expected quarterly profit as record results in North America and Asia offset weakness in Europe.

The tire maker also maintained its full-year financial outlook.

The company reported first-quarter net income available to common shareholders of $26 million, or 10 cents a share, compared with a year-earlier loss of $11 million, or 5 cents a share.

Excluding a 37-cent loss resulting from the devaluation of the Venezuelan currency and other one-time items, Goodyear earned 45 cents a share. That was 15 cents above what analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S had expected.

Sales fell 12 percent to $4.85 billion, below the $5.1 billion analysts had expected.

Goodyear affirmed its full-year outlook, saying it expected segment operating income — The combined results of its four business units – to come in at $1.4 billion to $1.5 billion. In February, the Akron, Ohio-based company cut that forecast from $1.6 billion, citing weakness in the Europe automotive market and the currency devaluation in Venezuela.