Congress passes three FTAs
The US Congress has approved free-trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama, ending a four-year drought in the forming of new trade partnerships and giving the White House and Capitol Hill the opportunity to show they can work together to stimulate the economy and return people to work. In rapid succession, the House and Senate voted on the three trade pacts, which the administration says could boost exports by US$13 billion and support tens of thousands of US jobs. The agreements would lower or eliminate tariffs that US firms face in the three countries.
Big losses ahead: Carrefour
French retail company Carrefour SA is warning that its losses will be greater than expected for the year because of tough economic conditions. The Paris-based superstore operator yesterday reported flat sales for the third quarter, dragged down by weak or shrinking sales in France and the rest of Europe. Carrefour is continuing to grow in emerging markets, particularly in Latin America and China, but those gains only barely offset a poor showing in Europe, where fears of a recession and a ballooning sovereign debt crisis have hit consumer spending. Carrefour posted sales of 22.8 billion euros (US$31.39 billion), up 0.3 percent, and said its full-year earnings could drop by 15 to 20 percent.
Roche sales decline 14%
Swiss drug maker Roche Holding AG announced a 14 percent drop in year-on-year sales in the first nine months of this year, blaming Switzerland’s strong currency for weakening its results. The manufacturer of cancer-fighting drugs said sales for the three quarters — including those of Tamiflu — fell to 24.4 billion Swiss francs (US$27 billion) compared with nearly SF28.4 billion the same time last year. However, sales in US dollar terms were up 4 percent. The company saw sales of its best-selling drug Avastin drop after a US Food and Drug Administration panel ruled breast cancer patients should no longer use it.
AOL mulls Yahoo merger
AOL Inc chief executive Tim Armstrong has been meeting with top shareholders in the past couple of weeks to push the idea of a sale to Yahoo Inc that could wring up to US$1.5 billion of cost savings, according to sources with knowledge of the discussions. “The focus in the meeting has gone from a year ago of being around the fundamentals to now being how could you carve this up, what are separate assets worth, are there ways to sell off the business to extract value from them,” said a top 20 AOL shareholder who attended one of the meetings. Armstrong said a merger between AOL and Yahoo could wring out US$1 billion to US$1.5 billion in savings from overlapping data centers and duplicate news sites, such as sports, entertainment and finance, according to another major shareholder who met with Armstrong.
Unemployment rate drops
Australia’s unemployment rate dropped to a lower-than-expected 5.2 percent last month, according to official figures, easing the likelihood of an interest rate cut and boosting the Australian dollar. The Bureau of Statistics said the seasonally adjusted jobless rate fell from 5.3 percent in August as the economy added 20,400 jobs last month. The number of full-time workers rose by 10,800, while part-timers increased by 9,600, the bureau said.