Business Highlights


Aluminum Revolution: Ford introduces a new F-150

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) — Ford pickups have been doing the country’s work for 66 years. They’ve hauled grain, towed logs and plowed snow. They’ve cleared debris after tornadoes and pulled floats in the Rose Bowl parade.

They’ve shouldered those loads with parts forged from steel. Until now.

On Monday, Ford unveiled a new F-150 with a body built almost entirely out of aluminum. The lighter material shaves as much as 700 pounds off the 5,000-pound truck, a revolutionary change for a vehicle known for its heft and an industry still heavily reliant on steel. The change is Ford’s response to small-business owners’ desire for a more fuel-efficient and nimble truck — and stricter government requirements on fuel economy. And it sprang from a challenge by Ford’s CEO to move beyond the traditional design for a full-size pickup.


Federal government runs December surplus of $53.2 billion

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. government ran a $53.2 billion surplus in December, signalling further improvement in the nation’s finances.

The surplus was the largest since September and a record for the month of December, according to the Treasury Department report released Monday. It was boosted by nearly $40 billion in payments from mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Rising tax revenues and government spending constraints are expected to trim this year’s annual deficit to around $600 billion. That would be even lower than last year’s deficit of $680 billion, which was the smallest since 2008.

The economy has gradually improved since the recession ended in June 2009. As more people find jobs, tax revenue rises and the deficit shrinks.


Beam being acquired by Japan’s Suntory

NEW YORK (AP) — The maker of classic American liquors such as Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark has agreed to be purchased by a Japanese company in a $13.62 billion deal that would create the third largest global premium spirits business.

Shares of Beam Inc. soared Monday after it agreed to be acquired by Suntory Holdings Ltd., a Japanese beverage company. The combined company would have annual sales of more than $4.3 billion.

The acquisition comes at a time when the taste for bourbon — a type of American whisky that is made primarily of corn and typically distilled in Kentucky — continues to grow both domestically and abroad.

The deal follows a number of acquisitions of alcohol brands in recent years, including Anheuser-Busch InBev’s $20.1 billion agreement last year to buy the other half of Mexican brewer Grupo Modelo that it didn’t already own.


Google says it will buy Nest Labs for $3.2 billion

NEW YORK (AP) — Google Inc. will pay $3.2 billion to buy Nest Labs, which develops high-tech versions of devices like thermostats and smoke detectors.

The search engine operator was an early investor in Nest Labs. It says the company’s Nest Learning Thermostat “has been a consistent bestseller.”

The thermostat is designed to learn how inhabitants like their homes to be heated and cooled. Once it learns the consumers’ preferences, it automatically adjusts the temperature on its own.

The Nest Protect alarm is intended to be less annoying than traditional alarms: when it detects rising smoke or carbon monoxide levels, it lights up yellow and speaks with human voice, giving consumers an option to turn the device off if there is no emergency. They can stop the alert by waving an arm.


Chinese drug company targeted in corruption case

BEIJING (AP) — China’s biggest drug distributor says two former executives are the target of a corruption investigation, widening a graft probe that has focused on foreign pharmaceutical makers.

A former vice-president of state-owned Sinopharm Group Ltd., Shi Jinming, was detained last week by Shanghai prosecutors for “an investigation in relation to an allegation of corruption against him,” a company statement said. It said Shi resigned in December for unspecified personal reasons.

Xu Yizhong, who was a general manager of a Sinopharm subsidiary, also is involved in the investigation, according to the statement released Sunday through the Hong Kong stock exchange. It gave no details of the accusations against the two men.

The announcement follows investigations last year of foreign drug makers on suspicion of paying doctors or other hospital employees to encourage use of their products.


Goldcorp offering to buy Osisko

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — Goldcorp Inc. is making a $2.6 billion (US$2.4 billion) takeover play for fellow Canadian gold company Osisko Mining Corp.

Goldcorp, one of Canada’s largest gold producers, offered Monday a combination of stock and cash that values Osisko at $5.95 Canadian (US$4.47) per share. That’s about 15 per cent above Friday’s closing price.

Osisko hasn’t commented publicly on whether its board supports the takeover offer, which is being made directly to Osisko shareholders. Osisko has an operating mine in northern Quebec and other projects in Ontario.

The acquisition of Osisko would provide Vancouver, British Columbia-based GoldCorp with a major mine in Quebec and other assets with growth potential.


Chicken plant closes again after cockroach cleanup

LIVINGSTON, Calif. (AP) — A California chicken farm that reopened over the weekend after it was shut because of a cockroach infestation says it’s “voluntarily and temporarily” suspending operations again.

Foster Farms said Sunday it was closing the plant in Livingston for several days so it can properly implement new food safety measures. The company said in a statement it is “exercising vigilance” and dedicating additional time to ensure its preventative plan is realized.

Work had resumed Saturday after Foster Farms announced it met the demands of the U.S. Department of Agriculture by performing a thorough cleanup and treatment of the plant. The company says no chicken product was affected.

The plant closed Jan. 8 when inspectors found the cockroaches on five separate occasions in various parts of the plant over four months. That closure came three months after inspectors threatened a shutdown because of salmonella problems at the Livingston plant and two Foster Farms sites in Fresno.

Those facilities stayed open as the company agreed to improve safeguards. It issued no recalls of products and instead advised consumers to handle chicken properly and to cook it thoroughly.


EU antitrust body probes U.S. film studio contracts

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union’s antitrust watchdog is investigating whether major U.S. film studios’ practice of selling rights to European pay TV broadcasters for only one country at a time is hurting competition.

The studios typically demand clauses in their contracts with European pay TV broadcasters limiting film rights to only their home country, rather than across the EU’s 28 states. The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, said Monday it is investigating the legality of such clauses.

The probe covers Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Bros. studio, Comcast Corp.’s NBCUniversal, Viacom Inc.’s Paramount Pictures and Sony Pictures.

Another studio targeted, Twentieth Century Fox, is part of 21st Century Fox Inc., an entertainment giant controlled by Rupert Murdoch that also holds large stakes in European pay TV broadcasters at the other end of the EU investigation, such as Britain’s BSkyB, Sky Italy and Sky Germany.


By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 179 points, or 1.1 per cent, to close at 16,257 Monday. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 23 points, or 1.3 per cent, to 1,819. The Nasdaq composite fell 61 points, or 1.5 per cent, to 4,113.

Benchmark U.S. oil for February delivery was down 92 cents to close at $91.80 in New York. Wholesale gasoline fell 3.5 cents to close at $2.634 a gallon. Natural gas rose 22.1 cents to close at $4.274 per 1,000 cubic feet. Heating oil fell 0.8 cents to close at $2.933 a gallon.

Brent crude, used to set prices for international varieties of crude used by many U.S. refineries, was down 50 cents to $106.75 a barrel in London.