Retail sales slip forecast
The Federal Statistical Office is estimating that retail sales in the country — which is Europe’s biggest economy — slipped by between 0.1 and 0.3 percent last year compared with the previous year. The estimate released yesterday was based on sales figures from January through November, adjusted for inflation and for the fact that December had two shopping days fewer than the same month in 2011. Official growth figures for last year are due on Jan. 15. The statistical office reported that retail sales in November were 1.2 percent higher than the previous month, but 0.9 percent lower than a year earlier.
Transocean agrees payout
Transocean Ltd agreed to pay US$1.4 billion to settle US government charges over BP PLC’s massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010 and the rig contractor admitted that its crew on the Deepwater Horizon was partly responsible. Transocean, which employed nine of the 11 workers killed in the accident, had set aside US$1.5 billion for the US Department of Justice out of a US$1.95 billion Macondo loss provision. The settlement, unveiled on Thursday, includes US$1 billion in civil penalties and US$400 million in criminal penalties. Still looming is a settlement with the plaintiffs committee that represents more than 100,000 individuals and business owners claiming economic and medical damages. The ultimate cost to Transocean could end up being more than US$4 billion, UBS analyst Angie Sedita said. Last year, BP reached a US$7.8 billion plaintiffs liability settlement.
Soy milk lawsuit widened
Hundreds of people who became sick after drinking soy milk containing dangerously high levels of iodine have widened their class-action lawsuit to include two Japanese companies, lawyers said. About 600 Australians became ill after consuming Bonsoy milk, many suffering thyroid problems, up until the product was withdrawn from sale in late 2009, Maurice Blackburn Lawyers said. The case against the Australian brand owner Spiral Foods launched in 2010 had been widened to include manufacturer Marusan-ai Co and exporter Muso Co, the firm said. Victims are seeking compensation for medical expenses, loss of income and for the pain and suffering.
Infosys planning job cuts
The country’s second-largest software outsourcer, Infosys Technologies Ltd, is planning to cut up to 5,000 jobs, a report said yesterday, as it seeks to reduce costs. “Infosys is asking the worst performers, about 3-4 percent of the 151,000 work force, to leave straightaway,” the Economic Times said, citing people familiar with the development. The Bangalore-based firm wants to reduce costs and move toward a more aggressive sales strategy, the report said. Infosys was not available for comment on the report.
Fiat to boost Chrysler stake
Italian auto giant Fiat on Thursday said it was exercising its option to increase by 3.3 percentage points its stake in US automaker Chrysler to 65.17 percent for US$198 million. Fiat said the value of the purchase from a trust run by the US auto union UAW to pay health care benefits for Chrysler retirees was its estimate, which still had to be determined by a US court. Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne is also chief executive of the Chrysler Group, though the two groups still operate independently. Marchionne does not foresee a full merger before 2015.