Imperial buys Davidoff
Imperial Tobacco Group PLC, one of the world's largest tobacco companies, said it bought the Davidoff cigarette trademark from Germany's Tchibo Holding AG for 540 million euros (US$693 million) as it seeks to boost sales. Imperial has been the licensee of the Davidoff cigarette trademark since it bought German cigarette maker Reemtsma in 2002, the British company said in a statement. Davidoff's sales will probably rise about 8 percent to 14 billion cigarettes in the year through September this year, Imperial Tobacco said. The acquisition is subject to approval from German regulators. Imperial Tobacco shares fell 0.4 percent to close at £18.05 (US$34.13) on the London Stock Exchange.
McDonald's No. 2 quits
McDonald's Corp on Wednesday announced the unexpected resignation of Mike Roberts, the fast-food chain's No. 2 executive, as president and chief operating officer. No reason was cited in the announcement by CEO Jim Skinner. The company said Ralph Alvarez, president of McDonald's USA, will succeed Roberts. Alvarez will in turn be replaced by Don Thompson, currently executive vice president and chief operations officer of the US business. Roberts was widely seen as the likeliest candidate to someday succeed Skinner in the top post of the company. After overseeing the revitalization of the US business, he was promoted to the president's job in November 2004 when Skinner was named to replace Charlie Bell as chief executive. McDonald's has continued to increase sales solidly since then, although growth has recently tapered off slightly as the company came up against tougher comparisons with its impressive recent results.
Budget deficit falls
Germany's budget deficit declined to 2.5 percent of GDP in the first half of this year, according to government figures yesterday that underlined Berlin's progress toward complying with an EU limit. A healthy increase in income and other taxes helped reduce the deficit from 3.7 percent a year earlier, the Federal Statistics Office said. It cautioned, however, against drawing conclusions from the first-half figure for the full-year deficit. Berlin has failed to keep its annual budget deficit within the EU-mandated limit of 3 percent of GDP for the last four years, generating tension between Brussels and Germany, the continent's biggest economy.
■ Real Estate
Cheung Kong profits drop
Cheung Kong (Holdings) Ltd (長江實業), Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing's (李嘉誠) real-estate developer, said first-half operating profit fell 31 percent on lower home sales and reduced gains from investment property. Operating profit was HK$3.3 billion (US$427.8 million), down from a restated HK$4.81 billion a year earlier, the company said in a statement yesterday. Net income was HK$12.2 billion boosted by a doubling in its share of profit from 50 percent-owned Hutchison Whampoa Ltd (和記黃埔). Sales fell 7.5 percent to HK$5.9 billion. Hong Kong property transactions fell 30 percent in the first half from a year earlier. Cheung Kong's property sales fell to HK$5.18 billion from HK$5.67 billion a year earlier. Accounting gains from increased values of its investment property fell to HK$642 million from HK$962 million. Cheung Kong's shares fell 2.5 percent to close at HK$84.45, their biggest one-day drop since June 8.