Sony board head to retire
Sony Corp board chairman Howard Stringer, who became the first non-Japanese executive to lead the company, said he would retire in June. Stringer, 71, will step down at the company’s annual shareholder meeting, the executive said on Friday in a speech at the Japan Society in New York. Kazuo Hirai, 52, succeeded him as chief executive officer almost a year ago. A surprise choice for CEO in June 2005, the Welsh-born Stringer struggled to bring Sony into a digital age where rivals offered phones and TVs with more features at often lower prices. Stringer said he would probably sit on boards in the healthcare and education fields, and would continue as chairman of the American Film Institute, among other pursuits.
IBM to focus on data services
International Business Machines Corp (IBM) CEO Ginni Rometty sees “big data” services, which let customers mine vast troves of information to make better decisions, as the company’s biggest focus this year. “I want you to think about data as the next natural resource,” she told the audience of business and political leaders. Data-based insight helped reduce crime by 30 percent in Memphis, Tennessee, and correctly predicted the outcome of swing states for US President Barack Obama’s campaign, she said. For IBM, the capabilities are helping it break into new overseas markets and sell services covering a wider range of tasks — from traffic management to weather monitoring to payroll. About 80 percent of growth is coming from outside the US, she said.
Staple food tax cut
Authorities are cutting all federal taxes on staple foods in a bid to tame inflation, after a report on Friday showed consumer prices rose more than analysts forecast for an eighth straight month. A weaker currency, record low borrowing costs and US$23 billion in tax cuts failed to kick-start the economy last year. Instead, the measures helped fuel inflation that is running faster than in Mexico, Colombia or Chile and approaching the 6.5 percent upper limit of the central bank’s target range. Eliminating the 9.25 percent PIS/Cofins taxes on staple foodstuffs will both rein in prices and stimulate the economy as Brazilians improve their ability to save and consume, President Dilma Rousseff said. The measure will reduce tax revenue by 7.3 billion reais (US$3.7 billion) annually. Consumer prices rose 0.6 percent last month, above the 0.49 percent forecast from 44 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg, the national statistics agency said in Rio de Janeiro on Friday.
McDonald’s sales steady
McDonald’s Corp, the world’s largest restaurant chain, said sales at stores open at least 13 months fell less than analysts estimated last month as low prices kept consumers coming to restaurants amid a weak economy. Global same-store sales fell 1.5 percent, the Oak Brook, Illinois-based company said on Friday in a statement. Analysts projected a 1.6 percent drop, the average of 13 estimates compiled by Consensus Metrix. McDonald’s sales were helped by “everyday affordable prices,” CEO Don Thompson said in Friday’s release.