Facebook posts strong fourth quarter

Facebook is growing at an exceptional pace as it enters adolescence, propelling it into a better position to challenge Google as the Internet's most powerful company. Facebook's fourth-quarter report Wednesday provided the latest gauge of the company's impressive strides. It marked the first time that Facebook's quarterly revenue has surpassed $5 billion — more than fading Internet star Yahoo now generates in an entire year. Facebook's earnings also more than doubled to $1.56 billion, even as the Menlo Park, Calif., company invests heavily in virtual reality, artificial intelligence, Internet access in remote parts of the world and a mobile ad network for services other than its own. The performance lifted Facebook's stock by $11.37, or 12 percent, to $105.82 in extended trading after the report came out.

Difficult period for college endowments

U.S. college endowments suffered the worst annual performance in three years, dragged down by tumultuous equity and bond markets, plummeting oil prices and economic weakness in Asia, according to an industry survey released Wednesday. The 2.4 percent gain reported by the National Association of College and University Business Officers and money manager Commonfund in Wilton, Conn., for the year ended June 30, 2015, compares with a 4.6 percent return in the Standard & Poor's 500-Stock Index. In the prior 12-month period, schools saw a 15.5 percent return on average. Wealthier schools beat their smaller counterparts, according to the survey of 812 institutions with combined assets of $529 billion. The performance was the worst since a 0.3 percent decline in fiscal 2012.

Russian companies back OPEC talks

The head of Russian state oil pipeline monopoly Transneft said talks on output cuts are planned with Saudi Arabia and OPEC. Transneft head Nikolai Tokarev said that Saudi Arabia had "taken the initiative and come out with a proposal to discuss the possibility of reducing volumes," in comments reported by Russian news agency RIA Novosti. The negotiations could be within the OPEC format or bilateral, though the Saudis are the "main negotiators," Tokarev was quoted by Tass. Speaking after a meeting between Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak and representatives of the country's leading oil companies, Tokarev was also quoted by Tass as saying that Transneft expected Russian oil exports to decline this summer.

Nexstar will now buy Media General

Nexstar said it is buying rival TV station operator Media General after Meredith agreed to allow Media General to get out of a takeover bid for Meredith. Media General had offered to buy media company Meredith in September. About two months later, Nexstar offered to buy Media General. On Wednesday, Meredith said it agreed to allow Media General to get out of the deal. As a result, Media General will have to pay $60 million in cash to Meredith Corp. Based in Des Moines, Meredith operates TV stations and publishes magazines such as Parents and Better Homes and Gardens. Nexstar said Wednesday that it will pay a mix of stock and cash that worth about $17.14 for each share of Media General, valuing the deal at $2.2 billion. Nexstar said the deal is worth $4.6 billion when debt is included.

Wendy's investigates unusual card activity

Wendy's said it is investigating reports of "unusual activity" on payment cards that had been used at some of its restaurants. The company said it learned from payment industry contacts this month of reports indicating fraudulent charges may have occurred on cards that had been used legitimately at some of its locations. It said it is has launched an investigation with the help of cybersecurity experts and that it is cooperating with law enforcement officials. Wendy's, based in Dublin, Ohio, encouraged customers to watch for unauthorized charges on their cards.

Walgreens will continue to sell tobacco

The nation's No. 1 drugstore has no plans to stop selling tobacco products and said its main focus is trying to help people kick the habit, Walgreens executives told shareholders at Wednesday's annual meeting.

Walgreens' stance contradicts chief competitor CVS' move last year to remove tobacco products from its shelves.

Shareholders gathered in New York on Wednesday morning to vote on four proposals, including a failed bid to tie executive compensation to sustainability metrics.

NEWS SERVICES