Archive for September, 2010

Billionaire investor seals deal to buy German retail chain (AFP)

Friday, September 3rd, 2010 | Finance News

BERLIN (AFP) – The future of Germany's Karstadt, Europe's third-largest department store chain, appeared to be secured Friday as a court approved its acquisition by a billionaire investor, safeguarding 25,000 jobs.

A court in Essen, western Germany, that has been overseeing months of wrangling over the rent to be paid for 120 Karstadt stores, agreed that investor Nicolas Berggruen could snap up the iconic chain, saving it from bankruptcy.

The court said in a statement it had "approved the insolvency plan for Karstadt."

"This is just a beginning. We all need to work together," Berggruen told reporters, adding: "I am working for you and for the future of Karstadt."

The High Street consortium of property developers, Karstadt's main landlord, agreed Thursday to lower its rental for the stores, removing a difficult stumbling block to a deal.

The path is now clear for the 49-year-old Berggruen to acquire the chain. Son of famous art collector Heinz Berggruen, he was born in Paris but has dual German and US citizenship and studied in Britain and the United States.

He owns a string of assets from Turkey to Cambodia and his international lifestyle, hopping from country to country by helicopter and staying in luxury hotels, prompted the Wall Street Journal to dub him the "homeless billionaire."

Karstadt, a venerable German chain founded in 1881 and which includes the famous Berlin department store KaDeWe, has faced bankruptcy since 2009 after years of erratic management.

It has also suffered from Germans' reluctance to spend, doubts over its future and the fact that people are deserting the department store model for shopping.

Found in almost every major German city, Karstadt is third in the list of European high street department store chains, behind Britain's Marks & Spencers and Spanish group El Corte Ingles.

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Brazil’s Petrobras unveils $64 bln share offer (AFP)

Friday, September 3rd, 2010 | Finance News

RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) – Brazil's state-run oil company Petrobras on Friday unveiled a huge share offering which could raise 64 billion dollars to help finance new exploration projects in the country.

Some 2.1 million common shares and 1.5 million preferred shares would be issued to help finance deepwater exploration, the company said in a statement.

If there is a heavy demand, the company said it was ready to raise the offer to around 74 billion dollars worth of shares.

The funds raised would represent a more than 40 percent increase in the company's capital, which on Thursday was estimated at 150 billion dollars.

In June the company said its daily production stood at 2.5 million barrels a day, with estimated reserves of 14 billion barrels.

But it also announced it had discovered a new reserve of light crude in deep offshore waters, estimated to contain 380 million barrels.

Petrobas says it holds some 25 percent of the world's deepwater operations, and Brazil in the past has said it has discovered new oil fields that could contain billions of barrels of oil.

But the country is not yet a member of the oil cartel, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

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Walgreen same-store sales miss expectations (Reuters)

Friday, September 3rd, 2010 | Finance News

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Walgreen Co (WAG.N) posted weaker-than-expected August sales at stores open more than a year, hurt by generic drug introductions and a decrease in customer traffic.

The results were reported a day after most retailers beat analysts' sales expectations for August.

Sales at stores open at least a year, a closely watched measure of retail performance, increased 2.1 percent from the same month in 2009, the drug store chain said Friday. Analysts were expecting same-store sales to increase 2.4 percent, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Comparable pharmacy sales increased 2.9 percent as new generic drugs -- which tend to have higher profit margins but hurt sales because they are cheaper than name-brand drugs -- entered the market. A lower incidence of flu drove fewer people into pharmacies.

Front-store comparable sales, which includes snacks, beverages and other items, increased 0.7 percent. Customer traffic dropped 0.8 percent, and basket size increased 1.5 percent, Walgreen said.

Sales at Duane Reade stores, which Walgreen bought earlier this year, are not included in comparable store sales. Total sales for the month, which does include Duane Reade stores, were $5.66 billion, up 8.6 percent from August 2009.

Total sales for the fourth quarter that ended August 31 were $16.89 billion, up 7.6 percent from $15.70 billion in 2009.

Analysts were expecting $16.80 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Walgreen also announced Friday that it is acquiring Omnicare Inc's (OCR.N) home infusion business, which involves administering drugs and other nursing services at a patient's home. In exchange, Omnicare will pick up Walgreen's long-term care pharmacy business, which served senior living communities.

The transaction is expected to close by November, according to a statement by the companies.

(Reporting by Emily Stephenson, editing by Dave Zimmerman)

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