World business briefs

  • Updated: March 17, 2014 - 8:54 PM

Global business

Chaori Solar, the first company in China to default on a corporate bond, said it would sell assets to repay debt and would try to avoid bankruptcy. The markets took a chilled approach to the solar-equipment company’s default, which the authorities may have permitted as a message to investors about pricing risk adequately. China’s corporate-bond market has grown rapidly since 2008’s credit binge.

UniCredit surprised even the most grizzled observers of Italy’s troubled banking industry when it reported a $21 billion net loss for the fourth quarter. The bank portrayed the loss as a “courageous decision” to write down bad debts and goodwill and prepare for European stress tests. It also proclaimed a new start under a four-year turnaround plan in which it will shed 6 percent of its workforce.

The share price of Herbalife, a U.S. seller of dietary supplements, fell after it said it was being investigated by the Federal Trade Commission. Bill Ackman, an activist investor, has shorted Herbalife’s shares; the company rejects his claim that it is a “pyramid scheme.”

The banana world was split over the merits of a merger between Chiquita and Fyffes that will create the fruit’s biggest distributor. Antitrust regulators will look closely at the deal, especially in Europe, which imposed stiff tariffs on Latin American bananas until 2012. But some say a merger makes sense, given the costs of tackling potentially disastrous diseases in banana crops.

Johnson & Johnson sold its K-Y intimate-lubricant brand to Britain’s Reckitt Benckiser in a deal that underlines the rapid growth of the sexual-well-being market. Only the brand is changing hands; no workers or assets are being transferred.

After five months of bids, counter-bids and “Pac-Man defenses,” Men’s Wearhouse and Jos A. Bank at last agreed to combine in a $1.8 billion deal to fashion America’s fourth-biggest retailer of men’s apparel. Because of the takeover, Jos A. Bank is terminating its planned acquisition of Eddie Bauer, a clothing brand.

Martin Winterkorn, Volkswagen’s boss, warned that new technologies being installed in cars could create a “data monster.” Smart cars have gadgets that link easily with smartphones, but other features, such as onboard cameras and systems could alert insurers to aggressive-driving patterns, worrying privacy advocates. Winterkorn says “yes to Big Data … but no to … Big Brother.”

Political economy

China’s annual rate of inflation slowed to 2 percent in February from 2.5 percent in January, and producer prices continued to decline, providing more evidence of slackening demand in the economy. Chinese exports unexpectedly fell in February, by 18 percent, the most since 2009 and leaving the country with a rare trade deficit. The central bank made further moves to weaken the yuan, possibly to help exporters.

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