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Business Highlights

Friday - 2/15/2013, 7:20pm  ET

The Associated Press

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Persistent Parker nears top job at American

Doug Parker has no problem donning rapper Psy's light blue tuxedo for Halloween and performing his own version of Gangnam Style before hundreds of employees. The CEO of US Airways even let a video of his dance get posted to YouTube. He's outspoken, confident, and persistent, and he is very close to being put in charge of the world's largest airline.

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Parker camped out in Washington for three months to secure a government loan to keep his airline in business. One executive who was with him said it often seemed like the other airlines just wanted America West to go out of business.

Parker later engineered an audacious merger of America West and the larger US Airways. Then he spent the next seven years looking for another partner. First Delta rebuffed him. Then United. Twice. Parker then went after the only big airline left: American.

American also resisted at first. But Parker convinced its unions and bankruptcy creditors to pressure American management until it relented. The two sides announced Thursday they'll combine to form an airline that's bigger than United and Delta. Parker will run it.

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States' choices set up national health experiment

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama's health care overhaul is unfolding as a national experiment with American consumers as the guinea pigs: Who will do a better job getting uninsured people covered, the states or the feds?

The nation is about evenly split between states that decided by Friday's deadline they want a say in running new insurance markets and states that are defaulting to federal control because they don't want to participate. The choice was left to state governments under the law: Establish the market or Washington will.

With some exceptions, states led by Democrats opted to set up their own markets -- called exchanges -- and Republican-led states declined.

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Herbalife stock surges after Icahn grabs stake

NEW YORK (AP) -- Strictly business, nothing personal. That's how Carl Icahn characterizes the latest turn in his clash with fellow Wall Street titan William Ackman.

Both men have a keen interest in Herbalife, a maker of dietary supplements designed to promote weight loss. Ackman claims the company is a fraud and has bet that its stock price will crumble; Icahn says it's a great buy.

They both can't be right, and for now it's not clear which one is. Icahn, for his part, disclosed in a regulatory filing late Thursday that he had taken a 13 percent stake in the company, essentially betting that Ackman is dead wrong. Icahn says he's not making his bet merely to spite Ackman.

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US factory output falls on weak auto production

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. factories slowed production in January after two solid months of cranking out goods. The weakness mainly reflected a big drop in output at auto factories that is likely temporary.

Manufacturing output fell 0.4 percent in January from December, the Federal Reserve said Friday. The decline followed increases of 1.1 percent in December and 1.7 percent in November.

Overall industrial production edged down 0.1 percent in January compared with December. Output In mining, the category that covers oil and gas drilling, fell 1 percent. Utility output jumped 3.5 percent, as a cold snap led more households to turn up their heat.

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Foreign holdings of US debt hit $5.56 trillion in December

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Foreign demand for U.S. Treasury securities rose to a record level in December, evidence that overseas investors remained confident in U.S. debt despite on-going budget battles in Washington.

The Treasury Department said Friday that foreign holdings of U.S. Treasurys rose 0.3 percent in December from November to $5.56 trillion. It was the 12th consecutive monthly gain.

China, the top foreign holder, increased its holdings 1.7 percent to $1.2 trillion. Japan, the second largest holder, boosted its investment 0.2 percent to $1.12 trillion.

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Burger King feels heat as rivals focus on value

NEW YORK (AP) -- A revamped menu helped boost Burger King's profit in the fourth quarter but now the world's second biggest hamburger chain says it needs to play up value more aggressively to compete with rivals.

The Miami-based chain said Friday that sales in the new year are trending "modestly negative" as the broader fast-food industry fights to attract cash-strapped diners with cheap eats.

To address the intensifying focus on value from competitors, Steve Wiborg, president of Burger King's North America operations, noted the company launched a limited-time offer for a Junior Whopper at $1.29 this week.

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