Archive for September, 2011

Starbucks CEO saw no summer weakness

Friday, September 30th, 2011 | Finance News

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Starbucks Corp's (SBUX.O) business is "still very strong" despite months of economic turmoil that has weakened sales at other major restaurant chains, Chief Executive Howard Schultz told Reuters on Thursday.

"Starbucks is having its best year and our business remains strong," he said in a telephone interview.

The comments from the founder and CEO of the world's biggest coffee chain came a day after Darden Restaurants Inc (DRI.N) said diners at its restaurants, which include Olive Garden, Red Lobster and LongHorn Steakhouse, ordered fewer appetizers, drinks and desserts during its fiscal first quarter ended August 28.

Darden also said it expected its diners' more frugal behavior to continue for the balance of the company's fiscal year, but at a slightly more moderate level.

When asked if Starbucks has seen its customers respond in similar ways, Schultz said: "We have not."

Starbucks was hit hard by the U.S. housing crisis that dragged the economy into recession. It shuttered nearly 1,000 stores around the world and slashed costs in a painful, but successful restructuring.

Its shares, which fell below $8 in November 2008, closed at $38.17 on the New York Stock Exchange.

(Reporting by Lisa Baertlein, editing by Bernard Orr)


Barroso slams Franco-German euro govt proposal

Friday, September 30th, 2011 | Finance News

BERLIN – The head of the EU's executive on Friday dismissed as unrealistic the French and German proposal to manage the eurozone through meetings of member states, saying decision-making needed to be centralized in European bureaucracies above sovereign nations.

France and Germany — representing about half of the bloc's output — have proposed holding two annual summits where eurozone governments would focus on economic policy.

Believing the 17 eurozone economies, with their 330 million citizens, could be governed "by two annual meetings of the heads of government is an illusion," Jose Manuel Barroso told the Friday edition of German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

Instead, the president of the European Commission wants stronger EU institutions. "It will never work to leave the rules for a stable eurozone to the member states alone," he was further quoted as saying.

The EU leaders' more immediate preoccupation was ensuring the swift passage of expanded powers for the bloc's euro440 billion ($600 billion) bailout fund, European Financial Stability Facility, or EFSF.

Germany, which pays the lion's share of European bailouts, became the 13th member of the eurozone to support the expansion of the rescue fund Thursday. Parliament's upper house, representing Germany's states, gave the final stamp of approval to the law on Friday afternoon.

Austria's parliament was also set to vote on the new powers for the EFSF Friday.

The fund will be able to buy government bonds and lend money to banks and governments before they are in a full-blown crisis, making Europe's response to market jitters more rapid and pre-emptive.

In debt-heavy Greece, the heart of the currency zone's sovereign debt crisis, international debt inspectors were trying to complete a review of the country's austerity reforms, but strikes and protests were delaying meetings.

A morning meeting at the transport ministry in Athens was delayed to the evening. The delegation of EU, ECB and IMF officials drove away after finding the building under occupation and protesting employees in the courtyard.

The debt inspectors' review of Greece's progress is critical for Athens to receive the next installment of bailout loans.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy was set to meet Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou in Paris later Friday to discuss the debt crisis. Papandreou met Germany's Merkel for similar talks Tuesday.

Greece was saved from default by an initial euro110 billion bailout in May last year before the EFSF was established to help any other countries in trouble. A planned second euro109 billion rescue package for Greece this year includes a voluntary participation by private bondholders, who agreed to write off about 20 percent on their Greek debt holdings.

Many experts say those writedowns should be closer to 50 percent. The debate among European leaders now is whether to allow such a move under controlled conditions, providing help to banks that may take heavy losses on Greek bonds they hold.


McGraw-Hill and CME eye indexes JV: source

Friday, September 30th, 2011 | Finance News

(Reuters) – McGraw-Hill Companies Inc is in advanced talks to merge its S&P Indices business with CME Group Inc's Dow Jones Indexes, a source familiar with the situation said on Thursday.

A deal would bring together some of the oldest and most widely followed U.S. indexes including the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500.

Under the terms of the deal being discussed, McGraw-Hill would own the majority of the joint venture and manage it, while CME would own about 25 percent, the source said.

News Corp's Dow Jones & Co would also own a minor stake, the source said.

The deal has not been finalized and the terms could change, the source said, adding that the talks have been going on for more than a year.

McGraw-Hill and CME declined to comment. News Corp was not immediately available for comment. The story was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Standard & Poor's maintains the S&P 500, which was created more than 50 years ago and is one of the most widely followed indexes of large-cap American stocks.

Dow Jones Indexes include the well-known Dow Jones Industrial average of 30 blue chip stocks. The brand was created in 1896 by Charles Dow, a company founder.

Dow and S&P create and license indexes that investors and others use to measure the performance of various markets.

Chicago-based CME Group, the world's largest derivatives exchange operator, offers futures and options contracts based on many indexes and pays fees for licensing rights, where it doesn't already own them. CME bought 90 percent of the Dow Jones' namesake indexes business last year.

Earlier this month McGraw-Hill said it would divide itself into a markets data company that includes its Standard & Poor's ratings businesses and an education company for textbook publishing.

The breakup announcement followed public demands starting in July from the Ontario Teacher's Pension Fund and hedge fund Jana Partners LLC for a broad reorganization.

(Reporting by Paritosh Bansal; editing by Carol Bishopric.)