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Examining the Books at UBS; Blue Nile Expands Internationally; Wendy's Serves Up Weak Sales; Virgin Bank?; Kookmin Bank Profits Soar; Wrigley Gum Popular Overseas; Societe Generale Under Investigation; Legg Mason Executive Invests $1 Million
- UBS AG (UBS) is under investigation by federal prosecutors in New York to determine whether the bank inflated the book value of mortgage bonds in an attempt to mislead investors, . The investigation is being headed up by the U.S. attorney in New York's Eastern District and is in preliminary stages. At this time, no subpoenas have been issued. UBS did not respond to requests for comment, the newspaper said. The Securities and Exchange Commission is conducting its own investigation into potential mispriced mortgage securities at a number of Wall Street firms, The Journal sources added.
- Online jewelry retailer Blue Nile Inc. (NILE) will begin shipping to 12 European and Asia-Pacific countries through its existing U.S. and U.K. websites, Reuters reported. Blue Nile's international sales increased 150% in the fourth quarter, and more than doubled in 2007 to $17.2 million. Looking to capitalize on growing overseas markets, the new destinations include Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and Australia.
- Wendy's International Inc. (WEN) announced weak fourth quarter results due to soaring commodity prices and a decline in consumer spending. Net income increased to $14.1 million, or 16 cents per share, from $3.03 million, or 3 cents per share, for the same period a year prior. However, Wendy's did not meet analyst estimates, causing shares to drop. The Dublin, Ohio-based burger chain has been seeking a buyer since April, Bloomberg reported.
- After Olivant Advisers Ltd. withdrew its interest, Virgin Group Ltd. submitted a revised $2.5 billion plan to buy Northern Rock PLC (PINK:NHRKF) – down from its previous bid of $3.1 billion. Headed by billionaire Richard Branson, Virgin and its backers would invest about $1 billion in Northern Rock and raise another $1 billion in a share sale, the company said in a statement. If Virgin wins its bid, it would fold its Virgin Money division and rebrand Northern Rock as Virgin Bank.
- Fourth-quarter profits more than doubled for Kookmin Bank (KB), South Korea's largest bank, after government-imposed safeguards tightened the bank's lending practices, Bloomberg reported. Net income rose $585 million in the quarter ended Dec. 31 compared with $227 million for the same period a year earlier.
- Fourth-quarter earnings for Chicago-based Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. (WWY) were slightly below analysts' targets as North America sales for the largest U.S. chewing gum maker fell 2.7%. Overseas sales were stronger than last quarter, fueling a 16% increase in net sales.
- The Securities and Exchange Commission is examining stock sales by an American board member of Societe Generale (SCGLY), yesterday (Monday). The SEC inquiry is investigating trades made by investor Robert Day and two foundations linked to him. According to filings last week in France, Day and the charitable foundations sold shares in Societe Generale on Jan. 9, Jan. 10 and Jan. 18. The bank says it launched an internal investigation on Jan. 18, after transactions by trader Jerome Kerviel raised red flags. Stock sales by Day and the foundations totaled $206 million.
- President and Chief Executive of Legg Mason Inc. (LM), , bought 13,590 shares of stock, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. Fetting paid $73.85 per share Friday, for an investment totaling just over $1 million. Shares closed at $71.95 last week.