Pending home sales hint at stabilization

December 30, 2013
Apple hinders work, e-book monitor says

A Washington lawyer monitoring Apple’s compliance with antitrust laws after a judge found it conspired with publishers to raise electronic-book prices said in court papers filed Monday that the company is obstructing his work.

Attorney Michael Bromwich said in a document filed in Manhattan federal court that he’s been largely cut off from top executives at Apple, which argued this month that his investigation was interfering with its business operations.

Bromwich, a former inspector general for the Justice Department, was appointed as an external compliance monitor to review Apple’s antitrust and training policies after U.S. District Judge Denise Cote concluded following a bench trial that Apple disobeyed antitrust laws by trying to raise electronic-book prices in 2010.

An Apple spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bromwich said that in the two months since his October appointment, he and his staff had been permitted 13 hours of substantive interviews or discussions during two visits to California. He said seven of the 11 people he had been permitted to interview were lawyers rather than business people.

Apple said in court papers this month that the judge’s order as it is being carried out by Bromwich was “flatly unconstitutional and will be reversed on appeal.” The company complained Bromwich had launched a “broad and amorphous inquisition.”

— Associated Press

Cooper Tire ends deal with Apollo

U.S.-based Cooper Tire & Rubber said it was terminating a proposed $2.5 billion sale to Apollo Tyres, with both sides threatening legal action over a deal plagued by obstacles from the start.

Cooper Tire said it was walking away after being informed by the Indian tire maker that financing was no longer available for a takeover that would have been India’s second biggest in the United States.

Cooper added that it would pursue legal steps to protect the company. Apollo responded by saying it was “disappointed” that Cooper had prematurely ended the agreement and that it would pursue legal remedies of its own.

Those threats could continue a legal stand-off between the two sides, whose relationship descended into acrimony soon after Apollo agreed to buy Cooper for $35 a share in June, hoping to transform itself into the world’s seventh-largest tire maker and cut its dependence on domestic sales.

The dispute is likely to focus on whether either company is liable to pay a break-up fee. Under the deal terms, Apollo would have been liable to pay a $112.5 million fee, while Cooper could be held responsible for a break-up fee of $50 million. Analysts were surprised that Cooper had announced the termination before the offer from Apollo was set to expire Tuesday.

— Reuters

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Crocs said Blackstone Group is making a $200 million investment that will give the private-equity firm a 13 percent stake in the shoe company. In exchange for the $200 million, Blackstone will receive two board seats. Crocs also said late Sunday that chief executive John McCarvel plans to retire in April.

Ford said 2013 North American sales of cars and trucks bearing its namesake brand will top 2.4 million, making Ford again the top-selling U.S. brand over Toyota. Ford said it will sell more than 600,000 passenger cars, the most since 2000. Growth has been led by demand for the Ford Fiesta small car, Ford Fusion midsize sedan, C-Max hybrid and Ford Escape SUV.

The National Association of Realtors said its seasonally adjusted index of pending home sales in November was essentially unchanged from October, suggesting that sales are stabilizing after several months of declines. The index ticked up to 101.7 from 101.5 in October.

A fire that destroyed a workshop at a Swatch Group factory in Grenchen, Switzerland, will affect other watchmakers it supplies more than the Swiss firm itself as a break in production is likely to cut the availability of parts. Sunday’s fire at a part of the plant that treats metals to protect them from rust could stop production of some components for several weeks, Swatch’s chief executive, Nick Hayek, said. Swatch is the world’s biggest watch parts supplier and has a near-monopoly on “movements,” the mechanisms that drive the moving parts of a watch.

Netflix is testing new prices based on the number of people who can use an account, a move that could force customers to pay more for additional family members. Netflix is offering some new customers plans that provide access on as many as four screens, letting household members watch different shows at the same time. The monthly prices range from $6.99 to $11.99, according to an offer posted on the company’s Web site.

The average amount of electricity consumed in U.S. homes has fallen to levels last seen more than a decade ago. Because of more energy-efficient housing, appliances and gadgets, power usage is on track to decline in 2013 for the third year in a row, to 10,819 kilowatt-hours per household, according to the Energy Information Administration. That’s the lowest level since 2001, when households averaged 10,535 kwh.

— From news services

Coming Today

9 a.m.: S&P/Case-Shiller home-price index for October.

10 a.m.: Consumer confidence index for December released.

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