Money Matters - Simplified


Takeo Fukui Charged Up for Hybrid Car Duel

Honda’s CEO Takeo Fukui is a man driven by the desire to have his company on top of the automobile heap, and that kind of drive means someone who hates losing. A fiercely competitive man, the 63-year old boss of Honda Motors is now looking to up the ante in the company’s battle with its Japanese rival Toyota Motor in hybrid technology.

Takeo Fukui Charged Up for Hybrid Car Duel

Blu-ray DVDs struggling despite support

Washington -- Blu-ray DVDs and DVD players are struggling to sell across the United States despite being tabbed as the replacement for average DVDs, analysts say.

Analysts said while Blu-ray was dubbed as the heir apparent in the high-definition DVD war with the HD DVD format, Blu-ray sales in 2008 have actually declined at some points, The Washington Post reported Saturday.

U.S. sales of Blu-ray player dropped 40 percent from January to February before rebounding slightly in March with a 2 percent increase, the research firm NPD Group said.

Yet Blu-ray Disc Association spokesman Andy Parsons has maintained that such drops in Blu-ray sales were simply due to a lack of available players.
"There was a sudden increase in demand when there was a sudden decrease in supply," he told the Post.

Travel American, Pay Fees for Checked Luggage

Sky-high fuel prices have, in recent times, been the bane of the airlines industry, prompting different carriers to look at alternative measures to run their operations without losing out to the price explosion. Now, American Airlines is set to become the first major airline company in the U.S. to charge passengers for checking in luggage.

Troubled real-estate magnate Macklowe sells GM Building

Boston Properties Inc., a publicly traded real estate company, said Saturday it has agreed to buy the landmark General Motors building and three other Midtown skyscrapers from the New York property magnate Harry Macklowe for $3.95 billion in cash and debt.

FCC near decision on radio merger

Washington -- The U.S. Federal Communications Commission should rule on the proposed merger of Sirius Satellite Radio and XM Satellite Radio soon, an agency head says.

Chairman Kevin J. Martin said the commission could rule by the end of June on the long-delayed merger, which has been criticized for potentially creating a satellite radio monopoly, The Washington Post reported Saturday.

"I still think the commission could act by the end of the second quarter," Martin said Friday.

Martin's comments came days after U.S. Sens. Olympia J. Snowe, R-Maine, and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., communicated with the agency head regarding the merger.

The Post said the two senators asked in a letter to Martin that FCC officials require the two radio giants to offer certain parts of the radio industry to their competitors if the merger is approved.

Motamed named to succeed CNA chief exec

Chicago -- CNA Financial Corp. was preparing for a change of leadership Saturday after the company announced that Thomas Motamed would succeed Stephen Lilienthal as CEO.

The company said Lilienthal would retire on June 8 and be replaced by Motamed, who is coming to the commercial insurance underwriter after 31 years at Chubb Corp., where he was vice chairman and chief operating officer and was responsible for worldwide underwriting and other aspects of the company.

In a statement released Friday, company officials at its Chicago headquarters said Motamed's extensive experience in many different aspects of the insurance business would help CNA as it moved to cope with a challenging business environment.

"Tom's broad experience across virtually every insurance discipline will be invaluable for continuing CNA's solid performance in a tough market," said James Tisch, a member of the CNA board of directors. "I expect that Tom will hit the ground running and that it will be a smooth transition."

Group protests removal of Field's name

Chicago -- A group of die-hard fans of the Marshall Field's department store brand in Chicago are protesting its replacement by the Macy's name, a report said Saturday.

A "handful" of the protesters attended this week's Macy Inc.'s shareholders meeting in Cincinnati to bring their message directly to Macy CEO Terry Lundgren, the Chicago Tribune reported. Group members picketed the meeting hall and passed out literature criticizing Lundgren's move several years ago to rebrand the former Fields stores with Macy's nameplates.

Daniel Harcourt of Schaumberg, Ill., told the newspaper he bought one share of Macy Inc. stock for $28 to gain admittance to the meeting.

"I was tired of being ignored as a customer," he said. "For the cost of a pizza I was able to look (Lundren) in the eye and tell him I want my Marshall Field's. By ignoring the power of the Field's brand, he's really shortchanged the shareholders."

Major carriers boost air ticket prices

San Francisco -- U.S. air travelers Saturday were paying up to $60 more for roundtrip domestic flights on United, Delta and American airlines thanks to rising fuel costs.

The skyrocketing cost of oil has forced the three major carriers to institute the price hikes, which work out to $60 for trips of more than 1,500 miles and $10 for journeys of less than 800 miles, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Saturday.

With crude oil prices reaching $130 per barrel even the newest round of ticket price hikes isn't enough to offset the financial hit the airlines are taking on fuel costs, company officials said.

"Today's revenue sources for airlines, both in fares and fees, are still not covering the cost of providing the product, and it is all driven by insane
fuel prices," Tim Smith, a spokesman for American Airlines told the Chronicle.

Poll: Majority pleased with retail clinics

New York -- Patrons of so-called retail health clinics in the United States generally were pleased with the service they received, a Harris Poll indicated.

The latest Harris Interactive-Wall Street Journal healthcare study indicated U.S. adults who used such a clinic generally were pleased -- with 90 percent of the respondents saying they were very or somewhat satisfied with the quality of care. Similar results were seen for cost (86 percent) and quality of care (88 percent).

The clinics -- usually found in stores such as Walgreens, Target and Wal-Mart and usually staffed by nurse practitioners and physician assistants -- also are popular for services such as vaccinations and care of respiratory infections.

"Advocates believe retail based clinics fill a gap in healthcare access for our nation of more than 40 million uninsured," Richard Millard, Harris Interactive group president, said in a statement. "On the other hand, organizations such as the American Medical Association are concerned that ...

Grains Gain On Rain And Bio-Fuel Demand

Chicago -- Grains traded mostly higher in Chicago Friday with prices moving up on planting delays and the recent surge in crude oil.

Corn was up 4 to up 4 1/4; soybeans were up 29 1/4 to up 43 1/4; wheat was up 6 1/2 to up 7 1/2; oats were off 1 to off 3.

Corn traded higher on renewed rain forecasts for much of the Midwest. A slow maturing wheat crop helped push wheat prices higher. Soybeans gained on a sharp rise in oil trading and increased bio-fuels demand in Brazil.

The prices:

Corn: Jul 5.99 3/4, up 4; Sep 6.12 3/4, up 4 1/4; Dec 6.27 1/4, up 4; Mar 6.40 1/4, up 4.

Soybeans: Jul 13.68, up 43 1/4; Aug 13.70, up 41 3/4; Sep 13.58, up 33 3/4; Nov 13.53 1/2, up 29 1/4.

Wheat: Jul 7.52 1/2, up 7 1/2; Sep 7.67 3/4, up 7 1/2; Dec 7.89 1/2, up 7 1/2; Mar 8.07 1/2, up 6 1/2.