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Starbucks Dips to $1 Coffee; Toyota May Etch GM in 2007 Sales; L'Oreal Smells a Sweet Deal; Record Oil Fuels ConocoPhillips Earnings; Carrefour Rings Up a Strong 4Q; Red Hot Egypt Economy to Grow; China Allows Banks to Invest in Singapore; eBay CEO Ends 10-Year Reign
- Faced with increasing competition from McDonald's Corp. (MCD) and Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks Corp. (SBUX) announced it is testing $1 coffee and free refills in its home market of Seattle, Reuters reported. The company is trying to turnaround after its share price lost more than 42% in the past year. Earlier this month, the company fired Chief Executive Jim Donald and replaced him with former CEO Howard Schultz.
- General Motors Corp. (GM) may lose its 76-year reign as world's top automaker to Toyota Motor Corp. (TM), Bloomberg reported. The Detroit-based company sold 9,369,524 vehicles last year while Toyota said two weeks ago it sold about 9, 370,000 vehicles. However, this closely watched contest will surely intensify on Jan. 28, when Toyota gives a more precise figure.
- France-based cosmetics giant, L'Oreal SA (LRLCY) offered French retailer PPR SA (PINK:PPRUF) $168 billion (1.15 billion euros) for its YSL Beaute cosmetics and fragrance unit. The world's largest make-up manufacturer, L'Oreal's brands already include well-known names like L'Oreal Paris, Garnier and Maybelline New York. Under the agreement, L'Oreal would be able to manufacture products under PPR's own Yves Saint Laurent and Boucheron brands, as well as licensed brands Stella McCartney, Oscar de la Renta and Ermenegildo Zegna.
- ConocoPhillips (COP) announced better than expected fourth-quarter earnings yesterday (Wednesday), fueled by record high oil prices and improved refining margins. The United States' third-largest oil company reported net income rose to $4.37 billion [$2.71 per share], from $3.2 billion [$1.91 per share], for the same period in the prior year. Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) and Chevron Corp. (CVX) are scheduled to report earnings on Feb. 1 and expect to have similarly strong results.
- Carrefour SA (PINK:CRERF), the world's second largest retailer, was able to meet 2007 sales estimates due to a strong fourth quarter. The France-based retailer attributed the jump in sales to higher food and fuel costs. Sales, which rose to $134.9 billion (92.27 billion euros) in 2007, were also boosted by new store openings and acquisitions. And the outlook for the New Year is equally bright. "We expect 2008 to be a breakthrough year," Chief Financial Officer Eric Reiss told analysts, Reuters reported.
- Egypt's finance minister, Youssef Boutros-Ghali, said the country's economy is forecasted to grow at least 7% for the second consecutive year, Bloomberg reported yesterday (Wednesday). Exports – which are growing at a 27% clip – have been fueling the country's growth.
- The China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) said it would now allow local banks to invest in Singapore-listed stocks under the so-called "qualified domestic institutional investor" (QDII) plan, Reuters reported. The move is a strong signal that it is loosening its historically tight investment policy to avoid financial risk by diversifying. The agency also said that it would sign similar pacts with the United States, Germany and Japan.
- eBay Inc. (EBAY) said in a statement that Meg Whitman, its long-time president and chief executive officer, will step down as of March 31, but will remain on the board of directors. John Donahue, who is president of the company's auction unit, will replace her. "Whitman joined eBay in March 1998. At the time, eBay was a U.S.-only, auction-based trading site with 500,000 registered users, just 30 employees, and $4.7 million in revenue. Today, the company has hundreds of millions of users worldwide, more than 15,000 employees and nearly $7.7 billion in revenue," the statement said.