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Abu Dhabi Buys Daimler Stake; Tata Launches Nano; Walgreen Beats 2Q Estimates; Banks Hurt by Plunging Commercial Property Prices; Gannett Furloughs Workers Again; Oil Nears 3-Month High; TreeHouse Foods Climbs on Private-Label Buying
- Abu Dhabi's state-controlled International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC) said it would buy a 9.1% stake in the German automaker Daimler AG (DAI) for almost $2.72 billion (2 billion euros). It also pumped $1.41 billion into Aabar Investment PJSC, giving the Middle East emirate majority control in the IPIC, Reuters reported.
- Tata Motors Ltd. (ADR: TTM) announced it will begin sales of the Nano, the world's cheapest car. It will accept bookings for the new car from April 9 and April 25, and customers will have to pay full price (about $2,000) as a deposit, Bloomberg reported.
- Walgreen Co. (WAG) took reconstruction charges and spent more promoting nonprescription items in its second-fiscal quarter ended Feb. 28, leading to a profit of $640 million, or 65 cents per share. The earnings beat expectations, and Morningstar Senior Analyst Mitch Corwin told Reuters that he believes the company will "emerge from this downturn a better firm."
- U.S. banks now face increasing loan delinquencies from owners of skyscrapers and shopping malls, as commercial property prices plummet. Commercial property prices are down almost 20% in the past year, and with the global recession worsening, there's "significant stress" in the market, William Schwartz, a credit analyst at DBRS Inc. in New York, told Bloomberg. The country's 10 biggest banks have $327.6 billion in commercial mortgages, which face a wave of defaults as office vacancies grow and retailers and casinos go bankrupt.
- Gannett Co Inc. (GCI) will force employees to take a new round of furloughs in April, May and June to save money as newspaper advertising revenue slides. Gannett was among the first U.S. newspaper publishers to furlough workers to cut costs as ad revenue sinks and people forsake printed papers to get free news on the Internet. The furloughs come after a one-week unpaid leave saved the company $20 million, according to a memo from a company executive obtained by Reuters.
- Oil prices hit their highest level in nearly three months yesterday (Monday) as a U.S. plan to purge banks of toxic assets triggered a rally on Wall Street, Reutersreported. U.S. crude rose $1.73 to settle at $53.80 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after climbing as high as $54.05, its highest price since December 1. London Brent crude rose $2.25 to $53.47. Dealers said the bank plan could brighten the outlook for global business and consumer energy demand.
- TreeHouse Foods Inc. (THS), whose largest customer is Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT), said the recession hasn't stalled plans to make "substantial" acquisitions and reach $2 billion in sales in a consolidating private-label food industry, Bloomberg reported. The recession has spurred growth in private-label goods from name brands as consumers look for ways to save money. Treehouse, whose roots trace back to Keebler elves, has gained 24% in the past 12 months, compared with a 39% drop in the Standard & Poor's Smallcap 600 Index (IJR).