Archive for December, 2010

Minnesota sues 3M over pollution claims

Thursday, December 30th, 2010 | Finance News

CHICAGO (Reuters) – The state of Minnesota sued 3M Co on Thursday, saying that the company contaminated the state's waters for decades with chemicals used in some of its best known products, including Scotchgard stain repellent.

The lawsuit, filed by Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson, seeks a cleanup of the waterways and unspecified damages.

3M did not respond to an e-mailed request for a comment.

According to the complaint, St. Paul-based 3M polluted public and private wells in the state for years by pumping the perfluorochemicals, or PFCs, it uses to make fire retardants, paints, stain repellents and other products into waters flowing into the Mississippi River and by burying the chemicals underground.

The Minnesota cities most affected by the releases, according to the complaint, include Cottage Grove, Oakdale, Woodbury and Lake Elmo.

3M, one of Minnesota's biggest employers and best-known public companies, manufactured PFCs in the state from the 1950s through 2002. It stopped making them following negotiations with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which says the chemicals pose serious risks to human health and the environment.

The attorney general said 3M set aside $117 million in reserves for potential environmental liability relating to its disposal and discharge of PFCs.

Some PFCs have been linked to cancer in experiments with laboratory animals, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

In a report earlier this year, the health department noted that a recent study of 3M employees by the company suggested a positive association between exposure to some PFCs and prostate cancer, cerebrovascular disease and diabetes.

(Reporting by James B. Kelleher. Editing by Robert MacMillan)


Barnes & Noble: e-books take lead in online sales

Thursday, December 30th, 2010 | Finance News

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Barnes & Noble Inc said that sales of digital books made through its website now exceed those of traditional books that it sells online.

Barnes & Noble, which introduced its Nook electronic reader last year to compete with Inc's Kindle, said customers bought or downloaded 1 million e-books via the Nook on Christmas Day.

A spokeswoman for Barnes & Noble said that figure included free e-books, but that most were paid downloads.

Barnes & Noble, which put itself up for sale last summer, is under pressure to show that its share of the e-books market is growing fast enough to mitigate a longstanding industry-wide decline in book sales. Barnes & Noble says it has a 20 percent share of the e-books market.

The top U.S. bookseller also said the various versions of the Nook devices were now its best-selling product, echoing claims earlier this week by Amazon that the most recent version of the Kindle was its bestselling item ever.

Both companies do not divulge exact sales figures. The sales numbers compare the devices to items within a category, such as individual books or CDs, rather than any category as a whole.

Analysts estimate that Barnes & Noble has sold about 2 million Nooks since the device's launch, while the Kindle, launched in 2007, is thought to have sold about 6 million devices.

Barnes & Noble makes most of its book sales at its 717 namesake stores in the United States. In the quarter that ended on October 30, retail location sales were more than five times greater than on its website, according to its most recent quarterly report.

Barnes & Noble shares were down 5 cents, or 0.3 percent at $14.26 in midday trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

(Reporting by Phil Wahba. Editing by Robert MacMillan)


London shares close lower on profit-taking

Thursday, December 30th, 2010 | Finance News


LONDON (AFP) – London's main stock market closed lower on Thursday as investors took profits on recent gains.

London's FTSE 100 index slipped 25.35 points or 0.42 percent to end at 5,971.01 points.

The FTSE last Friday closed above the psychological 6,000-point level for the first time in 30 months thanks to a Christmas Eve 'Santa' rally.

In a day lacking definite trends, Randgold Resources was the biggest loser, shedding 2.39 percent to 5,315 pence, while silver and gold miner Fresnillo was the sharpest riser, climbing 2.59 percent to 1,661 pence.

The FTSE 100 is on course to have risen by about 10 percent in 2010, while the Paris CAC is down more than two percent since the start of January and Spain's IBEX index is lower by over 17 percent.

However, London's gains are overshadowed by the trend in Frankfurt, where the DAX has jumped by around 16 percent this year.