Good news for eurozone
Growth in Germany, France and the Netherlands beat economists’ estimates in the fourth quarter of last year in a sign the fragile euro-area recovery is gaining traction. German GDP rose 0.4 percent from the third quarter, when it increased by 0.3 percent, the Federal Statistics Office in Wiesbaden said yesterday. It predicted an expansion of a quarter of a percent on Jan. 15, while economists forecast growth of 0.3 percent, according to a Bloomberg News survey. French GDP rose 0.3 percent after stagnating in the third quarter, more than the 0.2 percent economists predicted, while the Dutch economy grew 0.7 percent, compared with estimates for a 0.3 percent expansion. The data bode well for the euro area, which has struggled to sustain its recovery.
Facebook offer rejected
Children’s advocacy groups fired at Facebook on Thursday, rejecting a US$20 million deal made to settle charges that the social network violated privacy by using “likes” as endorsements for ads. US-based consumers’ rights group Public Citizen led organizations backing a legal brief urging a US federal appeals court in San Francisco to toss the deal inked last year. The filing said the settlement fails to compel the social network to change its ways when it comes to using profile images of teenage members in ads without the consent of parents or guardians. The practice is specifically banned by laws in California and six other US states, Public Citizen attorney Scott Michelman said. A US judge in August last year approved the deal to make Facebook pay for using members “likes” as endorsements for ads.
India holds wireless auction
India raised almost US$10 billion from an auction of wireless spectrum that saw billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd emerge as a potential competitor to Vodafone Group PLC and Bharti Airtel Ltd. The government received 375.7 billion rupees (US$6 billion) in bids for the 1,800 megahertz band in 22 regional zones and 235.9 billion rupees for 900MHz in Mumbai, New Delhi and Kolkata, Suraj Radhakrishnan, vice president at auction facilitator e-Procurement Technologies Ltd, said on Thursday. The government valued the spectrum on sale at a minimum of 490 billion rupees. “This was an expensive auction which is going to take its toll on balance sheets of the companies that are already deep in debt, like Bharti,” said Harit Shah, a Mumbai-based analyst with Nirmal Bang Equities Ltd. Some of the spectrum acquired in the 1,800MHz band will be used for a fourth-generation mobile service, the company said.
AIG boosts dividend
American International Group Inc (AIG) chief executive officer Robert Benmosche is increasing returns for shareholders as he targets job cuts to simplify the firm. AIG boosted its quarterly dividend by 25 percent to US$0.125 a share and authorized another US$1 billion in stock buybacks on Thursday as it posted fourth-quarter profit that beat analysts’ estimates. The New York-based insurer said it would eliminate about 3 percent of its workforce, primarily at the property-casualty business. Benmosche, 69, has been working to simplify AIG and reduce expenses after divesting units to help repay a US bailout in 2012. He has been shifting some employees to lower-cost locations in the US and abroad, and said on Thursday that those changes created duplicate roles that had to be cut.