Saturday mail stamped out? Postal Service plans cuts
WASHINGTON (AP) — Most Saturday mail delivery may soon go the way of the Pony Express and penny postcards. The Postal Service said Wednesday that it plans to cut back to five-day-a-week deliveries for everything except packages to stem its financial losses in a world radically re-ordered by the Internet.
"Our financial condition is urgent," declared Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe. Congress has voted in the past to bar the idea of eliminating Saturday delivery, and his announcement immediately drew protests from some lawmakers. The plan, which is to take effect in August, also brought vigorous objections from farmers, the letter carriers' union and others.
The Postal Service, which suffered a $15.9 billion loss in the past budget year, expects to save $2 billion annually with the Saturday cutback.
Plywood maker Boise Cascade soars after IPO
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Riding a U.S. housing recovery and a booming stock market, building materials maker Boise Cascade jumped 25 percent in its market debut Wednesday.
It's the latest solid first-day gain for an IPO, boding well for other companies that want to raise money by going public. Cruise company Norwegian Cruise Line rose 30 percent in its Jan. 18 debut, and has kept rising. Child care provider Bright Horizons gained 27 percent on Jan. 25. Homebuilder Tri Pointe added 12 percent on Jan. 31.
Monopoly fans vote to add cat, toss iron tokens
PAWTUCKET, R.I. (AP) — The Scottie dog has a new nemesis in Monopoly after fans voted in an online contest to add a cat token to the property trading game, replacing the iron, toy maker Hasbro Inc. said Wednesday.
The results were announced after the shoe, wheelbarrow and iron were neck-and-neck for elimination in the final hours of voting that sparked passionate efforts by fans to save their favorite tokens, and by businesses eager to capitalize on the publicity.
The Facebook vote closed just before midnight Tuesday, marking the first time that fans have had a say on which of the eight tokens to add and which one to toss. The pieces identify the players and have changed a lot since Parker Brothers bought the game from its original designer in 1935.
Fines levied against RBS in rate-fixing scandal
LONDON (AP) — Britain's Royal Bank of Scotland on Wednesday became the third major bank to be caught up in a global probe of interest rate manipulation, but what makes the $610 million fine against the lender so remarkable is how it will be paid: by the bankers themselves.
Because RBS is 80 percent owned by the British government, which bailed it out during the 2008 financial crisis, the bank plans to cut 2012 bonuses and claw back previous payouts from staffers implicated in the fraud, their managers and some other employees. To take money from the corporation would, in effect, amount to making British citizens pay for the bank's role in the scandal.
RBS, Barclays of the U.K. and UBS of Switzerland were found to have rigged the London interbank offered rate, or LIBOR. It is the rate banks use to lend money to each other and provides the basis for trillions of dollars in contracts around the world; including mortgages, bonds and consumer loans.
NTSB: Plane batteries not necessarily unsafe
WASHINGTON (AP) — Despite a battery fire in one Boeing 787 Dreamliner and smoke in another, the type of batteries used to power the plane's electrical systems aren't necessarily unsafe — manufacturers just need to build in reliable safeguards, the nation's top aviation safety investigator said Wednesday.
National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman said she doesn't want to "categorically" rule out the use of lithium-ion batteries to power aircraft systems, even though it's clear that safeguards failed in the case of a Japan Airlines 787 that had a battery fire while parked at Boston's Logan International Airport last month.
The board is still weeks away from determining the cause of the Jan. 7 fire.
Visa's fiscal 1Q net income jumps 25 percent
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Visa's profit jumped 25 percent in the last three months of 2012 as consumers racked up more credit card debt and used their debit cards more often.
The payments processing company also expanded a program to buy back its stock.
Visa says its fiscal first-quarter net income totaled $1.3 billion, or $1.93 per share, in the three months ended Dec. 31. That compares with net income of $1.03 billion, or $1.49 per share, a year earlier.
CVS Caremark's 4Q profit rises 6 percent
CVS Caremark's fourth-quarter earnings climbed 6 percent, as revenue from its established drugstores grew and new customers helped its pharmacy services.
Overall, one of the nation's largest drugstore chains said revenue rose nearly 11 percent in the quarter to $31.4 billion, even though a wave of generic drugs recently has hurt topline growth for drugstores and pharmacy benefits managers, which run prescription drug plans for employers, insurers and other customers.
Generic equivalents to top-selling medicines like the cholesterol fighter Lipitor hurt revenue for those companies because they are cheaper than brand-name counterparts. But they boost earnings because they come with a wider margin between the price drugstores and PBMs pay to buy them and the reimbursement they receive for doling them out.
Time Warner 4Q earnings up, raises dividend 11 percent
NEW YORK (AP) — Time Warner Inc. said Wednesday that net income grew 51 percent in the last three months of 2012, while revenue was largely unchanged. Rising fees from cable and satellite companies and higher ad revenue at the TV networks offset revenue declines at the movie studio and magazine businesses.
The company also announced a dividend increase and a new plan to buy back shares. Its stock jumped to its highest level in more than a decade.
The television networks business drove the quarter's performance as revenue there grew 5 percent, offsetting declines elsewhere. The Warner Bros. studio business had a weaker release lineup in the most recent quarter, though it managed to report an operating profit with an emphasis on higher-profit TV production. The Time Inc. magazine business, the smallest of the three, has announced layoffs to reflect reduced demand for print editions.
FDA warns of new fake batch of cancer drug Avastin
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Food and Drug Administration is warning U.S. doctors about another counterfeit version of the cancer drug Avastin, the third case involving the best-selling Roche drug in the past year.
The FDA said in an online post Tuesday that at least one batch of the drug distributed by a New York company does not contain the active ingredient in real Avastin, which is used to treat cancers of the colon, lung, kidney and brain. The drug was distributed by Medical Device King, which also does business as Pharmalogical. The vials are packaged as Altuzan, the Turkish version of Avastin that is not approved for use in the U.S.
The agency warned doctors in April about a similar case of fake Turkish Avastin from a U.K. distributor. A year ago the FDA announced an investigation into a batch of fake Avastin distributed to doctors in several states. Both of those cases appeared to involve different networks of distributors than the latest incident.
Liberty Global to buy Virgin Media for $16 billion
NEW YORK (AP) — Liberty Global Inc., the cable TV operator controlled by media mogul John Malone, is buying U.K.-based Virgin Media Inc. in a $16 billion deal that steps up the rivalry between Malone and fellow billionaire Rupert Murdoch.
Liberty Global is paying $5.9 billion in cash and the rest in stock for Virgin Media. The combination, announced late Tuesday, will provide stiffer competition in the U.K. to satellite TV provider BSkyB, in which Murdoch's News Corp. owns a 40 percent stake. The combined company will become one of the world's largest providers of cable TV, Internet and phone services, with 25 million customers in 14 countries.
Liberty Global is the largest cable operator in most of its 11 European markets. Virgin Media is the second-biggest pay TV company in the U.K. after BSkyB, or British Sky Broadcasting Group PLC.
By The Associated Press(equals)
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 7.22 points to 13,986.52. The Standard & Poor's 500 rose 0.83 point to 1,512.12. The Nasdaq composite was three points lower at 3,168.48.
Benchmark crude for March delivery fell 2 cents to end at $96.62 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In London, Brent crude rose 21 cents to finish at $116.73 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.
Wholesale gasoline rose a fraction of a cent to end at $3.04 a gallon. Natural gas added 2 cents to finish at $3.42 per 1,000 cubic feet. Heating oil lost less than a penny to end at $3.19 a gallon.