Business & Finance
Boeing Co. was celebrating its sixth order for new passenger jets since mid-December: 70 single-aisle 737s for Ryanair, the Irish budget carrier. The contract was valued at $4 billion, with an option for 70 more planes. The first of the jets will be delivered in 2008, the parties said. The addition of the planes will result in more than 2,500 new jobs, a Ryanair spokesman said, as the company seeks to become Europe's largest airline.
Media giant Viacom Inc. posted a massive $18.4 billion net loss for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2004, largely due to a write-down of its outdoor advertising and radio stations businesses. The company said it would reevaluate its portfolio in radio, an industry challenged by the emergence of subscription services such as Sirius and XM Satellite and the rapid growth in iPod and other portable listening devices. Still, led by its cable-TV operations, Viacom reported a 6 percent overall gain in revenue for 2004 and said it expects a similar performance this year.
Saab Automobile pointedly denied a published report that it is for sale, calling the account "one of the coarsest speculations we've heard." The company was acquired five years ago by General Motors, and a spokesman said, "GM stands behind Saab all the way." The Swedish financial journal Dagens Industri, citing anonymous sources, said GM was seeking possible buyers among France's Renault or Chinese automakers. A Renault official said his company had no interest in acquiring Saab. GM warned late last year that it would cut back its money-losing operations in Europe.
Nestlé SA said it will buy back $860 million worth of its own stock and increase its dividend to shareholders by 11 percent after posting the most disappointing sales figures in two years. The buy-back, a first for the Swiss food marketing giant, may be followed by even larger purchases, senior executives told a news conference.
Plans to eliminate at least 2,200 more jobs were announced by HVB Group, the parent of HypoVereinsbank, Germany's second-largest as measured by assets. HVB already had written down the value of its real estate business and its equities investments and canceled its dividend to shareholders. It also said it plans to sell more than $20 billion worth of nonperforming loans later this year. The layoffs will come on top of more than 11,000 employees who have been let go over the past four years.