IN BRIEF


Regulators to consider Harrah's bid for Planet next month

Harrah's Entertainment will appear before Nevada gaming regulators next month for approval of its purchase of Planet Hollywood Resort.

The gaming giant is on the Wednesday Gaming Control Board agenda to be heard in Carson City.

Harrah's took over hotel operations Jan. 16 for the 2,496-room hotel tower as well as the property's food and beverage operations.

The company has been negotiating to acquire more of the resort's $860 million debt, which is in default. In September, Harrah's controlled nearly $140 million of the debt.

The company filed applications with the gaming regulators in November seeking approval to acquire Planet Hollywood Resort.

The resort, formerly the Aladdin, is now owned by a partnership between Planet Hollywood founder Robert Earl and private equity firm Bay Harbour Management.

Earl has maintained he will continue to have a role at the property after the ownership change.

DEARBORN, Mich.

Ford posts profit in 2009, expects to stay in black

Defying economic conditions that sent its U.S. rivals into bankruptcy court, Ford Motor Co. clawed its way to a $2.7 billion profit in 2009 and expects to stay in the black in 2010. It was the automaker's first annual profit in four years.

Ford's full-year revenue of $118.3 billion fell 14 percent from 2008, but the Dearborn-based automaker benefited from $5.1 billion in cuts to manufacturing, engineering and advertising and a $1.3 billion profit at Ford Credit. It gained market share in North and South America and Europe despite the worst U.S. sales climate in 30 years. Share in Asia was flat.

Ford's 2009 net income was 86 cents per share. It lost a record $14.6 billion, or $6.50 per share, in 2008. Excluding special items, Ford's earnings per share for the year were flat.

Ford made money in three of the four quarters last year. In the fourth quarter, it earned $868 million, or 25 cents per share, compared with a loss of $5.9 billion a year earlier.

Quarterly revenue rose 22 percent to $35.4 billion.

CINCINNATI

Consumer products giants enjoy profitable quarter

Even in a recession, people still need to shave and brush their teeth. Sales of consumer products for grooming and other uses helped Procter & Gamble Co. and Colgate Palmolive Co. to profitable quarters.

Procter & Gamble, the maker of Pampers diapers and Gillette shavers, says its sales are growing at prerecession rates as budget-focused households respond to price cuts, promotions and new versions of its products.

Procter & Gamble earned $4.66 billion, or $1.49 per share, with sales of $21 billion. Earnings got a 47-cent boost from the sale of P&G's prescription drug business.

Profit in the quarter fell from $5 billion a year ago, when earnings were boosted 63 cents a share by P&G's sale of Folgers coffee.

Meanwhile, higher sales of toothpaste, soaps and body washes helped Colgate-Palmolive's fourth-quarter profits rise 27 percent.

The maker of Colgate toothpaste, Palmolive dish soap and Ajax cleanser earned $631 million, or $1.21 per share, for the three months that ended Dec. 31, up from a profit of $497 million, or 94 cents per share, a year earlier. The 2008 quarter was also weighed down by restructuring charges.

Revenue climbed more than 11 percent to $4.08 billion.

SEATTLE

PC sales rebound helps profits jump 60 percent for Microsoft

Microsoft Corp. said Thursday its earnings in the most recent quarter jumped 60 percent, as a rebound in the personal computer industry drove sales of the company's latest Windows operating system.

PC shipments bounced back during the holiday shopping season after one of its roughest years to date, but analysts attributed nearly all the gains to consumers drawn to inexpensive laptops and their smaller, less powerful cousin, the netbook.

For the fiscal second quarter, which ended Dec. 31, Microsoft said its net income rose to $6.7 billion, or 74 cents per share, from $4.17 billion, or 47 cents per share, in the same period last year.

The latest version of Windows, called Windows 7, was released in October, but in the months before the launch Microsoft gave new PC buyers the right to upgrade to Windows 7 later. The second-quarter results included $1.7 billion in deferred revenue for Windows sales made during earlier quarters but not recorded until the launch.

That added 14 cents to the software maker's net income. Excluding the gain, Microsoft said it earned 60 cents per share in the quarter, one cent more than analysts polled by Thomson Reuters were expecting.

Revenue rose 14 percent to $19 billion from $16.6 billion.

NEW YORK

Wal-Mart Stores realigning its American operations

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer, said Thursday it is realigning its U.S. operations in an effort to give more autonomy to executives in regional markets and reinvigorate U.S. growth.

Wal-Mart is combining its U.S. realty, store operations and logistics divisions and reorganizing operations under three geographic business units headed up by regional presidents: West, South and North.

The regional alignment will help stores more closely connect to their customers, no easy feat when you are the world's biggest consumer company, said Craig Johnson, president of retail consultancy Customer Growth Partners.

"It's like turning around the Queen Mary, but the more you can do to become a customer-driven company, the better it is."

SAN JOSE, Calif.

Seriously, Mr. Jobs, why'd you have to call your tablet that?

You have to wonder whether there were any women in the room when the marketing geniuses at Apple decided to call the company's new gadget the "iPad." Because the jokes about feminine hygiene products are flying.

"Will women send their husbands to the Apple store to buy iPads?" went one joke on Twitter. And a "MadTV" comedy sketch from several years ago about an electronic sanitary napkin called the iPad went viral on YouTube.

Apple, a company notoriously secretive about its product development processes, wouldn't comment about the name or how many women were involved in the launch. Three Apple execs -- all men -- introduced the iPad at its unveiling in San Francisco.

But brand experts said the name isn't so bad.

"It fits with what Apple's been doing consistently. They take literal words that exist and stick an 'i' in front of it. And it works for them. It's not offensive despite the silly jokes," said Tye Heckler, a vice president at Seattle-based Hecker Associates, which is responsible for the store names Cinnabon, Panera and Starbucks.

 

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