Unstructured Finance

M&A wrap: Amazon, Nokia, Microsoft weighed RIM bids

Research In Motion has turned down takeover overtures from Amazon.com and other potential buyers because the BlackBerry maker prefers to fix its problems on its own, according to people with knowledge of the situation. Amazon hired an investment bank this summer to review a potential merger with RIM, but it did not make a formal offer, said one of the sources. It is not clear whether informal discussions between Amazon and RIM ever led to specific price talk.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Microsoft and Nokia have discussed the idea of a joint bid for RIM, but the status of those talks remains unclear.

HSBC, Europe’s biggest bank, is retreating from Japan’s private banking market, selling a business that serves the wealthy to Credit Suisse, which is raising its profile in the world’s second-largest market for millionaires.

Tokio Marine said it will buy U.S. insurer Delphi Financial Group for $2.7 billion and is eying other acquisition targets, as Japan’s No.2 property-casualty insurer looks to expand outside its mature home market and diversify geographic risks.

Dozens of black-suited investigators, marching double-file, raided the office building of three small Olympus Corp subsidiaries Wednesday, one of 20 sites searched in a probe of a $1.7 billion accounting scandal that threatens the once-proud Japanese medical device maker’s survival.

Deals wrap: Icahn turns inward

Investor Carl Icahn speaks at the Wall Street Journal Deals & Deal Makers conference, held at the New York Stock Exchange, June 27, 2007.  REUTERS/Chip East Seems billionaire investor Carl Icahn has had enough of managing money for outsiders. The 75-year-old stock picker dropped a bit of surprising news on Tuesday when he said he plans on returning all of his clients’ money, making him the latest in a string of investors to do so.

Barnes & Noble’s bid to reinvent itself as a formidable competitor in the burgeoning e-books sector is off to a solid start. Its Nook is the second best-selling e-reader on the market behind Amazon’s Kindle, and the book chain’s chief says it has 25 percent of the e-books market.  So why can’t the bookseller find any buyers? Reuters correspondents Phil Wahba and Jessica Hall take a closer look in a new piece.

Jury selection in the trial against Galleon Group hedge fund founder Raj Rajaratnam kicks off the action today in a case at the heart of the biggest insider trading investigation in a generation.

Check Out Line: New chapters in book battle

Check out the battles emerging over books. BRITAIN/

Google on Thursday announced plans to offer its own online electronic bookstore, joining a battlefield currently dominated by Amazon.com.

The company plans to sell ebooks for any device with a web browser and its library is expected to start at about half a million books when it is launched in 2010.

The library would compete with the likes of Amazon.com’s Kindle offerings, but the books an be bought from Amazon and Barnesandnoble.com, as well as from Google directly.

Check Out Line: Target takes control of Target.com

tgtCheck out Target already looking forward to the 2011 holiday season.The discount retailer said it is taking control of Target.com and aiming to launch its new website by the 2011 holiday season.The announcement signals the end of a relationship with online retailer Amazon.com that began in 2001.”We believe it is in Target’s best interest going forward to assume full control over the design and management of Target’s e-commerce technology platform, fulfillment and guest services operations,” Target.com President Steve Eastman said in a statement.Target had previously extended its contract with Amazon to 2011, but the companies will continue to work together during the next two years.Also in the basket:Crocs Q2 beats, sees return to profit in 2010 Blue Nile profit in-line; full-yr view tops, shrs upHhgregg Q1 profit beats Street, reaffirms outlookForget the shuttle, take a Hermes chopper to the airportSupreme Court Justice Thomas and Wife Camp Out at Wal-Mart (Foxnews.com)(Photo: Reuters)

Check Out Line: Can a $298 laptop jump-start back-to-school?

schoolbus2Check out efforts to get serious back-to-school shopping underway.

Wal-Mart announced plans to start selling on Sunday a Compaq Presario laptop for $298.

Gary Severson, Wal-Mart U.S.’s senior vice president of home entertainment, told Reuters he thought the deal represented a “screaming value.”

The retailer also plans to cut the price of an Acer laptop with an 8-hour battery by $50 to $548. The computer has 3 gigabytes of memory, a 320 gigabyte hard drive and qualifies for a free upgrade to the Windows 7 operating system when it is released.

E Ink sale not much of a VC payday

E Ink’s “electronic paper” is the special sauce that makes e-book readers like the Amazon Kindle possible, but it hasn’t proven to be much of a meal for its venture capital backers.

The privately held company was purchased by Taiwanese display maker Prime View International on Monday for $215 million, 12 years after it emerged from a Massachusetts Institute of Technology laboratory.

peHUB notes that the decade-plus span is far from ideal for VCs (the ideal horizon is five to seven years). Even worse, VCs including Intel Capital, Motorola Ventures, Solstice Capital, the McClatchy Company, Lucent Technologies, FA Technology Ventures, and the Hearst Corporation sunk some $148.8 million into E Ink over the years, for an underwhelming 1.4 multiple.

Netflix tops customer satisfaction survey

NETFLIX-OUTAGE/Online retail may be outperforming brick-and-mortar rivals amid the U.S. recession, but that’s no reason to get complacent.

In a wake-up call to the industry, a new survey shows that customer satisfaction with online retailers declined 3 percent from last year.

The slipping satisfaction level uncovered in ForeSee Results’ Top 100 Online Retail Satisfaction Index is a “remarkable trend,” according to its author.

Is Amazon’s Kindle DX e-reader hype?

The new Kindle DX is bigger, but is it better?” asked one headline as gadget reviewers examined the latest electronic reader from Amazon.com.

The verdict: “It isn’t as revolutionary as its promoters might like us to think.”

Amazon’s brand of Kindle e-readers now has a new addition, the Kindle DX, and despite the company’s hype, the $489 device may remain a niche product that appeals to a limited few.

Check Out Line: Recession? Not at Amazon.com

AMAZON-KINDLE/Check out the sales surge at Amazon.

The online retailer beat Wall Street expectations for quarterly earnings and revenue as lowered prices lured more shoppers online. It also benefited as sales of its Kindle electronic reader gained momentum.

The company increased revenue an unexpectedly strong 18 percent as cash-strapped consumers went shopping online, and Amazon’s own discount shipping program spurred purchases. 

Promotions and cost-consciousness — as customers eschewed a trip to the mall in favor of browsing for free online — helped it post a 21 percent sales gain in North America. 

Just how wonderful is your brand?

USA/Just how “wonderful” consumers think your brand is can help your stock price, especially in a recession, according to a study by market research agencies Kadence, Brand Care and So What Research.

The study looked at consumer perceptions of 650 leading U.S. brands and found there is a link between the affection consumers hold for a brand — or the “wonderfulness” of the brand – and its stock performance.  

According to the study, the ten most wonderful brands in the eyes of U.S. consumers are (in descending order) Hershey’s, Google, Sony, Kraft, Crayola, Kellogg’s, Scotch Tape, Wii, Rolls Royce and Johnson & Johnson.

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