Consumer bankruptcies continue climbing

Consumer bankruptcies rose 9 percent in 2010 and filings will keep climbing this year given high debt levels and tepid income growth, the American Bankruptcy Institute said Monday, citing data from the National Bankruptcy Research Center. A total of 1,530,078 U.S. consumers filed for bankruptcy protection from creditors last year, up from 1,407,788 in 2009, the group reported. Annual consumer filings have increased each year since the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Prevention Act was enacted in 2005, the group noted.

Fiat may seek majority stake in Chrysler

Fiat's chief executive, Sergio Marchionne, said Monday that it might seek to raise its stake in Chrysler Group to 51 percent before Chrysler's initial public offering, which is planned for this year. "If Chrysler is listed this year, we should think about speeding up the option of increasing our stake in Chrysler," Reuters quoted Marchionne as saying at the Milan stock exchange. But he said Fiat, the Italian automaker, was not planning "today" to merge the two companies. Marchionne was speaking as Fiat Industrial and the Fiat auto business made their trading debuts as separate entities. The move freed Marchionne to seek greater integration with Chrysler or to find partners to reach his goal of creating a globally competitive automaker.

Kraft Foods faces tax inquiry in India

Indian officials are investigating whether Kraft Foods evaded taxes in its $19 billion takeover of Cadbury last year. India's ministry of finance is examining Kraft's tax liabilities related to the takeover, on the heels of a public-interest lawsuit filed last year in the Delhi High Court. In the suit, a Delhi-based lawyer asserted that Kraft had "completely and illegally avoided" tax liabilities related to the sale of shares and capital assets in India, which had caused "substantial loss to the Indian economy." Access to India's fast-growing economy, as well as other emerging markets, was a crucial reason that Kraft Foods struck a deal for Cadbury, analysts and Kraft executives said as the deal was struck. A Kraft spokesman in India said Monday that the company was not aware of any litigation or investigation related to tax matters and the Cadbury deal.

TV supplier Vizio readies tablet, smart phone

Vizio Inc., the nation's second-largest television supplier, will introduce a low-cost smart phone and tablet computer using Google's Android software to attract consumers who can't afford Apple's devices. The smart phone with a 4-inch screen and tablet with an 8-inch display will be unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which begins Thursday, Chief Technology Officer Matthew McRae said in an interview last week. Irvine, Calif.-based Vizio intends to make its smart phone and tablet "very aggressively priced," McRae said, but he declining to provide specific numbers. The tablet and smart phone will be sold at Wal-Mart and Costco stores, McRae said.

Dollar General plans 6,000-job expansion

Dollar General Corp., the biggest of the U.S. dollar discount stores, plans to add 6,000 jobs as it opens 625 more stores in fiscal 2011. Dollar General will enter Connecticut, Nevada and New Hampshire as part of the initiative, the company said Monday. The Goodlettsville, Tenn.-based discounter, which operates more than 9,200 outlets, also plans to remodel or relocate 550 stores this year. From 2009 through 2011, Dollar General will have created 15,000 jobs, it said. Last month, the company said sales by stores open at least 13 months rose 4.2 percent in the third quarter. That slowed from growth of 5.1 percent in the second quarter and 6.7 percent the quarter earlier, Dollar General said on Dec. 6.

FROM NEWS SERVICES