Business briefs: Chobani loses appeal to use 'Greek' in U.K.

  • Updated: January 29, 2014 - 10:41 PM

Chobani loses appeal to use ‘Greek’ in U.K.

A British appeals court has ruled that Chobani, the company leading the burgeoning Greek yogurt market in the U.S., cannot label its products “Greek” in the U.K. because they are made in America. Chobani said it was disappointed with the ruling, but added that “the fight is not over” and it would continue the legal battle. The court case was brought by Chobani’s rival Fage, a Greek company, soon after New York-based Chobani launched their products in the U.K. in 2012. Fage has dominated sales of Greek yogurt in Britain under the “Total” brand for decades. A judge ruled last year that Chobani’s “Greek yogurt” label misled British customers, agreeing with Fage that products labeled Greek yogurt have to be made in Greece.

Starbucks’ Schultz to focus on mobile efforts

Starbucks says CEO Howard Schultz will spend more time focusing on mobile payments, loyalty cards and other digital projects of increasing importance for the coffee chain. The announcement comes after the Seattle-based company recently noted that it saw a “seismic” shift to online shopping during this past holiday season. Executives say that hurt the company’s performance because there were fewer people milling about at malls, meaning fewer opportunities for people to stop in at its cafes. Schultz has shot down the notion that the migration to online shopping will hurt Starbucks over the long term, however. He says Starbucks is using its mobile payment apps, its loyalty program and gift cards to deepen relationships with customers and get them to visit more often.

Many Patch employees reportedly laid off

Hundreds of employees of Patch, the troubled local news enterprise, were laid off Wednesday in a reorganization. Just two weeks ago, AOL announced that it was handing over the majority stake in Patch to Hale Global, an investment company that specializes in turning around troubled companies through technological innovation. Hale said at the time that its intention was to keep operating all of Patch’s 900 sites and that no staffing decision had been made. Neither Hale Global nor AOL would comment on the layoffs. Media blogger Jim Romenesko provided a link to what was purported to be an audio copy of a conference call that Patch’s chief operating officer, Leigh Zarelli Lewis, had with selected employees. Patch had roughly 450 employees before the layoffs. Remaining employees were told that all 900 Patch sites would remain open.

Smartphone shipments crack 1 billion mark

For the first time, more than 1 billion smartphones were shipped worldwide in a single year, according to a report this week. A total of 1.004 billion smartphones were shipped to vendors in 2013, meaning phonemakers sold those devices to wireless carriers, retailers or directly to their customers, according to a report by IDC. The 2013 figure is up 38.4 percent from the 725.3 million smartphones that phone makers shipped in 2012. Smartphones accounted for 55.1 percent of all the mobile phones shipped last year, the report said. The increased availability of cheaper devices is what’s driving the growth in smartphone shipments, IDC said.

Slumping Nintendo plans share buyback

Nintendo will spend as much as $1.2 billion buying back shares after Christmas shoppers shunned its Wii U console and games featuring Mario and Zelda. The world’s largest maker of video-game machines will buy back as many as 10 million shares, or about 7.8 percent of outstanding shares, the Kyoto, Japan-based company said. Nintendo had about $8.6 billion of cash and equivalents and zero debt as of Sept. 30. Nintendo shocked the market this month when it forecast a surprise annual loss, cut Wii U sales projections and said it’s considering a new business model. President Satoru Iwata, who’s taking a 50 percent pay cut, is under pressure to find a new hit product as casual players move to smartphones and tablet computers, and hard-core gamers flock to faster consoles from Sony and Microsoft.

Home prices in Britain approach 6-year high

U.K. house prices rose for a 13th month in January to their highest level in almost six years as the economy gained momentum, Nationwide Building Society said. The average cost of a home advanced 0.7 percent from December to 176,491 pounds ($293,000), the most since April 2008, the Swindon, England-based lender said in a report. That’s more than the 0.6 percent increase forecast by economists in a Bloomberg survey. From a year earlier, prices climbed 8.8 percent, the biggest annual increase since May 2010. “It is evident that the strength in house prices is spreading,” said Howard Archer, an economist at IHS Global Insight in London. “This can only fuel concern that a new housing bubble could really develop in 2014.” He forecasts home values will increase about 8 percent this year.

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