Archive for May, 2008

Icahn gets antitrust go-ahead for Yahoo stock buy (Reuters)

Friday, May 30th, 2008 | Finance News

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -
U.S. antitrust regulators have given
billionaire investor Carl Icahn the go-ahead to purchase large
blocks of Yahoo (YHOO.O) stock, the Federal Trade Commission
said on Friday.

The FTC, which routinely looks at large stock purchases,
said the moves were approved in a listing that it puts out
several times a week.

In mid-May, Icahn launched a campaign to replace Yahoo's
board with new directors that would reopen buyout talks with
Microsoft (MSFT.O), saying the board had acted "irrationally"
in refusing the software giant's bid.

Microsoft walked away from its sweetened $47.5 billion
offer for the Internet company earlier this month. Microsoft
had initiated an unsolicited bid originally worth around $44.6
billion at the end of January, which Yahoo rejected as
insufficient.

(Reporting by Diane Bartz, editing by Mark Porter)

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Kerkorian’s Ford tender offer on track despite slump (Reuters)

Friday, May 30th, 2008 | Finance News

DETROIT (Reuters) -
Billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian on
Friday said he would move ahead with a tender offer for Ford
Motor Co (F.N) shares, signaling a bigger bet on the
automaker's turnaround despite the recent slump in its stock
and lowered financial outlook.

Kerkorian's investment vehicle Tracinda Corp said it would
continue to tender for 20 million Ford shares at $8.50 each,
despite an 18 percent decline in the shares since the offer was
launched on May 9.

Tracinda waived a condition that the market price of Ford
not fall by 10 percent or more from the close of trading on May
8, a previously established escape that would have allowed
Kerkorian to back out from his offer.

By pressing ahead, Kerkorian could establish a 5.5-percent
stake in the struggling No. 2 U.S. automaker, raising the
prospect that he will emerge as a player in its restructuring
at a time when U.S. auto sales have slumped to decade lows and
record gas prices have undercut sales of high-margin trucks.

An activist investor with a long history in Detroit,
Kerkorian most recently held a nearly 10 percent stake in GM
and made an unsuccessful bid to acquire Chrysler in 2007. He
also made an offer that Ford rejected to buy its luxury Jaguar
and Land Rover brands last year.

Kerkorian has said through Tracinda that while he may
propose business strategies for Ford but is not seeking any
chances to Ford's board or executive management.

"Tracinda continues to believe in Ford's management and
turnaround efforts and remains committed to its offer," the
Beverly Hills, California-based investment company said in a
statement on Friday.

Tracinda disclosed last month it bought 100 million shares
of Ford at an average price of $6.91 and planned to buy an
additional 20 million shares.

Shares of Ford rose as much as 3 percent on the New York
Stock Exchange
in initial reaction to Kerkorian's announcement
on Friday morning, but quickly gave back most of those gains

to trade up just 1 percent at $6.78.

Ford Motor warned last week that it no longer expected to
meet a key target of returning to profitability in 2009 and
would cut production through this year in response to a
slumping U.S. auto market, triggering a sell-off in its stock
and raising concerns about its two-and-a-half-year long
restructuring effort.

But some analysts and investors have credited Ford Chief
Executive Alan Mulally with moving faster than embattled rivals
to react to the most recent downturn in the U.S. market,
triggered by gas prices near $4 per gallon.

"Alan Mulally is more inclined to under-promise and
over-deliver as opposed to over-promise and under-deliver, and
I think Kerkorian has a lot of confidence in that," said IRN
Inc analyst Erich Merkle.

Despite its continued losses, some analysts still see Ford
as being ahead of its bigger rival GM, which is grappling with
the costly legacy of its troubled former affiliates such as
bankrupt auto parts maker Delphi Corp (DPHIQ.PK) and finance
company GMAC.

Ford posted a surprise $100 million profit in the first
quarter thanks to cost-cutting, while GM lost $3.25 billion in
the same quarter, hit by hefty charges for Delphi and GMAC.

Ford said this week it is taking steps to cut its salaried
workforce over the next two months through dismissals rather
than more time-consuming buyouts.

Kerkorian's tender offer is scheduled to expire at 5 p.m.
EDT on June 9 unless it is extended.

(Additional reporting by Lewis Krauskopf in New York;
Editing by Derek Caney)

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Tiffany reports 19 pct rise in 1st-quarter profit (AP)

Friday, May 30th, 2008 | Finance News

NEW YORK - Tiffany & Co. reported Friday that strong growth in the Asia-Pacific and European markets helped first-quarter profits rise 19 percent and said that it doesn't expect an improvement in the U.S. until later this year.

The jewelry retailer also raised its profit outlook for the year, based on a promising start, and said that it will open a smaller-store format in the U.S. as part of its worldwide expansion plans.

Tiffany said profits totaled $64.4 million, or 50 cents per share, in the three-month period ended April 30. That compared with $54.08 million, or 39 cents per share, in the year-ago period.

The company's sales rose 12 percent to $668.15 million from $595.7 million in the year-ago period.

The results beat estimates of analysts polled by Thomson Financial who had expected earnings of 40 cents per share on sales of $649 million.

Shares rose 4.4 percent, or $2.10, to $49.84 in early trading.

"We are pleased to start the year with sales and earnings growth above our expectations," said Michael J. Kowalski, chairman and CEO, in a statement. He added that the strong gain in worldwide sales, despite only a modest growth in the U.S. due to a challenging economy, reflects "the benefit of globally diversified distribution."

Total sales in the Americas region, which includes the U.S., Canada and Latin and South America, rose 6 percent to $373.6 million from $353.3 million in the year-ago period due to incremental sales from new stores. Same-store sales, or sales at stores opened at least a year, in the U.S. were unchanged from the prior year.

Same-store sales rose 16 percent in Tiffany's New York flagship store due to increased foreign tourist spending, but same-store sales at branch stores fell 4 percent. Combined catalog and Internet sales in the U.S. rose 1 percent.

Sales in the Asia-Pacific region, which includes business in Japan, in Asia-Pacific countries outside of Japan and in the Middle East, rose 21 percent to $222.0 million from $183.1 million. On a constant-exchange rate basis, sales rose 10 percent and same-store sales increased 4 percent reflecting strong growth in all Asia-Pacific countries other than Japan.

Sales in Europe rose 38 percent to $60.1 million from $43.5 million. On a constant exchange rate basis, a 30 percent increase in sales was due to 12 percent same-store sales growth and incremental sales from four new stores.

Kowalski also said that the company is continuing to pursue important expansion opportunities in 2008 and expects to open about 24 stores across the U.S., Asia-Pacific — other than Japan — and Europe, more than offsetting weakness in U.S. sales. The company said that it will introduce a new, smaller store format in the U.S. later this year.

Tiffany said it remains on track to meet full-year sales growth goals. It expects worldwide net sales to rise by 10 percent in 2008. The retailer boosted net earnings per share projections to a range of $2.80 to $2.90. That's up from March guidance of $2.75 to $2.85.

Analysts polled by Thomson Financial expect $2.73 per share for the year.

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On the Net:

http://investor.tiffany.com/

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