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Citigroup Sell-Off; LexisNexis to Absorb ChoicePoint; China Mobile is London Calling; Russia SWF Buys Fannie and Freddie; Etihad Airways to Buy 50 to 100 Aircraft; Google To Launch Video Advertising; Telefonica O2 Czech Republic Post 138% 4Q Profit; Dubai Investment Quadruples MGM Profit
- In an effort to focus on faster growing and less competitive markets while also cutting costs, Citigroup Inc. (C) is selling and/or closing some foreign units. The Wall Street Journal, citing unidentified sources close to the matter, reported that Citi would be shutting down consumer finance branch locations in Mexico, Japan, and the United Kingdom. The closings are part of a larger plan to focus more attention on Thailand, Russia and the Middle East.
- Reed Elsevier PLC (ENL), the parent company of popular information service LexisNexis, announced yesterday (Thursday) it would buy ChoicePoint, Inc. (CPS) in a deal valued at $3.6 billion. The agreement values ChoicePoint at $50 per share, a 49% premium over Wednesday's closing price. ChoicePoint, which collects and analyzes consumer data, will be combined with the LexisNexis risk unit. Shares of ChoicePoint rose 43.40%, or $14.61, to close at $48.27 the day of the announcement.
- China Mobile Ltd. (CHL), the world's largest mobile phone company, opened a London office yesterday (Thursday), which will focus on the European, Middle Eastern and African markets as part of Beijing's "Go Global" directive to invest internationally. Henry Ge, chief representative of China Mobile U.K., said his company would focus on three areas: emerging markets; Chinese customers residing abroad; and Chinese traveling for business or tourism, MarketWatch reported.
- Russia's Finance Minstry announced that the country will tap its $157 billion sovereign wealth funds to buy 15 government bonds from the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Austria, Canada, the Netherlands and the United States, Bloomberg reported. From the latter, Russia will buy bonds from Fannie Mae (FNM) and Freddie Mac (FRE).
- The United Arab Airways national airline, Etihad Airways, is in talks to order 50 to 100 aircraft from The Boeing Co. (BA) and Airbus S.A.S. Rapid economic growth in the region has turned the emirates and fellow Persian Gulf nation Qatar in a financial and recreational hub, requiring massive expansion to its airports and airlines. As of last year, Etihad operated 37 aircraft and expects to carry 30% more passengers this year, Bloomberg reported.
- Web search behemoth Google Inc. (GOOG) announced that it plans to start selling advertisements that will appear in Web videos, Reuters reported. Not ads in the sense of 15-second spots before of after a video, but rather an ad that appears in the video box off screen with ad content related to keywords searched for by a user. The company said it has 20 customers lined up.
- Fourth-quarter net profit jumped a massive 138% for Telefonica O2 Czech Republic on lower costs, deferred tax and mobile and data service expansion. Full-year profit was up 29.5%. "These results are fully in line with our targets communicated at the beginning of the year and allow the board of directors to propose a dividend payment of 50 crowns per share," CEO and Chairman Salvador Anglada said in a statement.
- Rising labor costs and a slowing U.S. economy put a dent in fourth-quarter earnings for MGM Mirage (MGM), Reuters reported. Operating profit for the world's second-largest casino slipped slightly but overall revenue ($1.93 billion) slightly beat analysts' expectations of $1.90 billion. However, a $1 billion investment from Dubai World in the company's Las Vegas CitiCenter project nearly quadrupled net profits.