Wal-Mart executive resigns
A high-profile Wal-Mart Stores Inc board member resigned on Friday after an internal probe turned up evidence of financial improprieties of up to US$500,000. Three Wal-Mart employees, including a company officer, also lost their jobs. The world's largest retailer said it asked Thomas Coughlin, who is also a former president and CEO of the company's stores division, to step down because of "a disagreement" over the results of the probe, which involves between US$100,000 and US$500,000, and his "response to questions concerning his knowledge of certain transactions," according to a regulatory filing.
New CEO stirs up Disney
Nearly two weeks after being named Disney's new chief executive, Robert Iger has made his first significant move to change the way decisions are made at the media conglomerate. The Walt Disney Co said on Friday it is restructuring its corporate Strategic Planning unit to give each of the company's businesses more authority to make acquisitions and start new ventures. Peter Murphy, Disney's chief strategic officer, will leave that role and become a senior adviser to Iger, the company said. Iger, who will take over from Michael Eisner in October, has said he wants to foster a more entrepreneurial atmosphere at the company while holding the heads of Disney's film studio, media networks, consumer products and theme parks divisions more accountable.
ATI profits rise 20% in Q2
ATI Technologies Inc, the world's No. 2 computer-graphics chipmaker, said second-quarter profit rose 20 percent as computer and cell-phone makers used more of its chips that display games and pictures. Net income advanced to US$57.2 million, or US$0.22 a share, from US$47.6 million, or US$0.19, a year earlier. Sales in the quarter ended Feb. 28 rose 31 percent to US$608.2 million, the Markham, Ontario-based company said in a statement. Profit rose as sales of higher-margin chips for televisions and mobile phones increased 41 percent, Chief Financial Officer Patrick Crowley said in an interview. Semiconductors for personal computers, which make up the rest of ATI's business, gained 13 percent to US$550 million, he said. The consumer unit's rapid growth is expected to slow this quarter and resume in the fourth period.
Japan's retail prices fall
Consumer prices in Japan fell 0.4 percent last month from the same month a year earlier, their steepest drop since June 2003 and the latest sign that the country remains mired in a nearly seven-year battle with deflation. Steep declines in telephone rates and a fall in the price of rice drove overall prices lower in February, according to Japan's statistics bureau. Japanese consumer prices have been flat or have fallen every month but one since April 1998, an unprecedented streak that has sapped some of the country's economic strength. Friday's new drop in prices made it unlikely that the Bank of Japan would abandon its ultra-easy monetary policy. For nearly four years, the central bank has been trying to kindle growth and a bit of inflation by keeping short-term interest rates near zero and pumping cash into the money markets. The central bank has pledged to maintain this policy until there are convincing signs that prices are headed higher.