MasterCard Posts 4Q Profit; Buffet's Berkshire Investing in Swiss Re; Rogers Staying Out of Russia; Ford in Volvo Talks with Geely Auto; Louis Vuitton Misses on Earnings; Brown Refuses to Ban Bonuses; Mortgage Rates Jump; Retail Trade Group Wants Tax Holidays
- MasterCard Inc. (MA) reported better-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings, surprising some analysts given the tightened credit market. For the quarter, the world's second-largest credit card network earned $243 million, or $1.87 a share, and boosted its revenue by 14.2% to $1.2 billion, Reuters reported.
- Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK.A, BRK.B) ($2.6 billion) in Swiss Reinsurance Co. (ADR: SWCEY ). Swiss Re, which is expecting a net loss, said it is also seeking another 2 billion francs on the capital markets, the Associated Press reported.
- Renowned global investor Jim Rogers said he's keeping his money out of weakening Russia – saying there is "a good chance Russia will continue to disintegrate into more than one country" in a Bloomberg Television interview. "I am not optimistic about the continuous stability of Russia," Rogers said.
- Ford Motor Co. (F) is talking with China's Geely Auto Holdings Ltd. (PINK:GELYF) about unloading its unprofitable Volvo unit, several sources told Bloomberg. Ford has also contacted China's Chery Automobile Co. and Chongqing Changan Automobile Co. about Volvo, the people said.
- LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA (ADR:LVMUY) said net income dropped 4.2% to $1.5 billion (1.14 billion euros) in the six months ending in December, missing analysts'estimates for second-half profit, Bloomberg reported. The world's largest luxury-goods maker said higher handbag sales failed to offset slumping demand for Hennessey cognac and Moet champagne. The financial crisis has crimped demand for even the most expensive luxury goods, eroding sales in the $230 billion (175 billion-euro) luxury goods market.
- U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown signaled he won't block bonuses to executives at Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc (ADR: RBS) as lawmakers stepped up pressure to adopt a U.S.-style plan capping pay. While he told reporters he supported President Barack Obama "strongly" on the need to change the way bankers are rewarded, he twice refused to say he'd ban bonuses at RBS, Bloomberg reported. The U.K. government is taking a 70% stake in RBS after the Edinburgh-based institution tapped part of the Treasury's 50 billion-pound recapitalization fund.
- U.S. mortgage rates jumped to their highest levels since December this week, frustrating efforts to bring mortgage rates down to levels that will spur demand and help the hard-hit housing market begin to recover, Reuters reported. Interest rates on U.S. 30-year fixed-rate mortgages rose to 5.25% for the week ending February 5, up from the previous week's 5.10%, according to a survey released Thursday by home funding company Freddie Mac (FRE).
- The National Retail Foundation said current economic stimulus legislation might not do enough to spur consumer spending and repeated its call for a series of temporary sales tax holidays. The retail trade group estimates that the proposed tax holidays would save consumers about $20 billion, or $175 per family, Reuters reported. The U.S. government would reimburse states for the lost revenue. The proposal comes as the NRF forecasts a 2.5% drop in retail sales in the first half of 2009.