Chrysler, the struggling US division of DaimlerChrysler, said it increased fourth-quarter profits from the previous year but still lost $637 million in 2003. The automaker's comeback efforts were hurt by a price war with General Motors and Ford, including interest-free credit offers and rebates. Meanwhile, Mitsubishi Motors, which joined forces with DaimlerChrysler in 2000, reported it fell back into the red last year after a brief return to profitability. The company put its loss at $675 million, compared with the $103 million deficit it was forecasting as recently as last November. Chief executive Rolf Eckrodt accepted responsibility for Mitsubishi's flagging fortunes and said shareholders would determine whether he continues to lead Japan's fourth-largest automaker.
Carlsberg, one of the world's leading brewers, will pay $2.55 billion to buy back 40 percent of its stock from Orkla ASA, a Norwegian consumer-products and chemicals giant. The companies have been partners since early 2001 but have had deep differences over future goals and strategy. A senior Orkla executive told journalists in Oslo, "The alternative to selling would have been a long, drawn-out feud." Orkla would have been willing to buy out Carlsberg, he said, but could not, for reasons he did not specify. Carlsberg is based in Valby, Denmark.
Oil giant Total SA announced plans to spin off or sell to investors by 2007 a division that makes plastic resins, solvents, and other chemical products. One industry analyst predicted the move would pressure other integrated oil companies to do the same, since chemical divisions usually are their least profitable. Total, based in Paris, is the new name of the company built from mergers with PetroFina of Belgium (in 1999) and Elf Aquitaine (in 2000).
Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream agreed to buy 236 Haagen-Dazs franchises across the US from General Mills for an undisclosed sum. Last year, after a $3.2 billion takeover by Swiss food giant Nestlé, Dreyer's gained control of the Haagen-Dazs brand and manufacturing rights, and now will assume greater control of what began as a family business in the 1920s. The acquisition is viewed as the latest volley in the premium-ice cream battle between Dreyer's and Unilever, which owns the Ben & Jerry's brand.