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Showing posts from July 15, 2013

SoftBank confident Sprint deal will close in July

SoftBank Corp CEO Masayoshi Son said on Friday he was confident his company's acquisition of Sprint Nextel Corp will be completed in early July after rival bidder Dish Network Corp failed to make a counter move this week. SoftBank, a Japanese mobile network operator, is heading into the home stretch as it tries to push through Japan's biggest ever acquisition, while aggressive dealmaker Dish has loomed as a potential spoiler with rival offers for Sprint and its Clearwire Corp subsidiary.   Son, SoftBank's billionaire founder, said Dish's failure to raise its offer for Sprint before a deadline early this week brought the Japanese company closer to sealing the $21.6 billion deal, but warned that its U.S. rival could make a surprise move before a Sprint shareholders' meeting on June 25. "We don't know what could happen before the meeting but we took a big step forward after Dish missed the deadline to make a new proposal," Son told an annual sharehol

Electric car maker Tesla unveils 90-second battery pack swap

Tesla Motors Inc on Thursday unveiled a system to swap battery packs in its electric cars in about 90 seconds, a service Chief Executive Elon Musk said will help overcome fears about their driving range. The automaker will roll out the battery-swapping stations later this year, beginning along the heavily-traveled route between Los Angeles and San Francisco and then in the Washington-to-Boston corridor.   "There are some people, they take a lot of convincing," Musk said at an event at Tesla's Los Angeles design studio. "Hopefully this is what convinces people finally that electric cars are the future." Electric cars have been slow to catch on with consumers because of their high price, limited driving range and lack of a charging infrastructure. Tesla has been working to address some of those issues with fast-charging stations and now with the battery-swapping technology. A battery pack swap will cost between $60 and $80, about the same as filling up a 15-

Technology unlocks gate to Wimbledon's English garden

Wimbledon, the world's oldest tennis championship, is embracing new technology with an iPad app to appeal to a younger audience. The app allows users to navigate around the grounds via a photographic map, zooming in on specific courts to get updates on the state of play. They can also get alerts telling them how their favorite players are faring. The All England Club (AELTC), which stages the tournament on the grass courts of suburban London, is in the position of knowing that demand for tickets far outstrips supply. But with so many people unable to get tickets, the tournament's online presence has brought it closer to fans around the world, AELTC Commercial Director Mick Desmond said.   "If you can't come to Wimbledon, we want to try to make it the next best experience," he told Reuters. "We try to position Wimbledon as tennis in an English garden but at the same time we want to be at the cutting edge of innovation," he added, speaking before t

Spreadtrum gets $1.38 billion buyout offer from China's Tsinghua Holdings

Chinese cellphone chip designer Spreadtrum Communications Inc said it received a $1.38 billion buyout proposal from a unit of government-owned Tsinghua Holdings Co Ltd. _0"> The offer of $28.50 per American depository share represents a premium of 28 percent to Spreadtrum's Thursday closing price on the Nasdaq . Spreadtrum said its board is evaluating the proposal. The company develops chips for smartphones, feature phones and other consumer electronics products, supporting 2G, 3G and 4G wireless communications standards.   Spreadtrum, which gets most of its sales from China and Korea, counts HTC Corp and Samsung Electronics among its customers. Lower-priced smartphones are popular in Asia and are expected to drive growth in the mobile handsets market as the United States reaches saturation. China has more than 1 billion mobile phone subscribers, with many switching from low-end feature phones to smartphones in the past few years as prices become more affordable wi

France to seek ban on Amazon bundled discounts, free delivery

France's Socialist government aims to introduce a law preventing online retailer Amazon from offering both discounts and free delivery for books in France , the culture minister said, arguing this amounts to unfair competition. _0"> Aurelie Filippetti said the government was looking for the right time to introduce a ban on the practice, which book sellers say threatens their business model by allowing Amazon to undercut their prices.   "I'm in favor of ending the possibility of offering both free delivery and a five percent discount," she told BFM news television on Friday. "We need a law, so we're going to find a legislative window to introduce one." Amazon in France declined to comment. Filippetti's remark underscored tensions between the French government and U.S. online firms such as Amazon and Google, which have been criticized for paying too little to the creators of cultural or news content. France, like other European countries

ZTE to churn out more 4G devices

China's ZTE Corp, the world's fifth largest smartphone maker, is aggressively moving into the higher end of the market for mobile gadgets with more 4G shipments. The Shenzhen-based company has been trying to move away from selling lower end mobile phones, a strategy that has served it well in boosting its global market share, but at the expense of pressuring margins and profitability.   It plans to further raise its global profile by sponsoring a U.S. National Basketball Association (NBA) team later this year, executives said. "We're working towards a goal of 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) gadgets making up 40-50 percent of our total consumer devices shipments by 2015. The percentage is quite small now -- about 4 percent," Lv Qianhao, ZTE's head of handset strategy, told reporters in China's southern city of Guangzhou, where 4G LTE trials are being conducted. ZTE is banking on products such as its Grand Memo phablet -- a cross between a phone and a tab

Michael Dell urges shareholders to support his buyout bid

Dell Inc's billionaire founder Michael Dell said he would oppose any leveraged recapitalization of the company and called on stakeholders to vote in favor of his buyout offer, ahead of a shareholder meeting next month. _0"> Dell argued his case in a presentation filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday, saying that keeping any part of the company public while it transformed itself would hurt Dell's stock price.   That in turn would threaten customer perception and make it more difficult to keep employees, he said. If his buyout proposal fails to sway shareholders, he reiterated that he will remain with the company but said he "will also oppose the kind of imprudent leveraged recapitalization that has been suggested by certain other parties." Activist shareholder Carl Icahn, who says Dell's offer undervalues the company, on Tuesday promised shareholders that the company would buy back up to $16 billion of stock if they joined h

EU blocks German plan for higher fixed phone rates

The European Commission blocked plans by Germany on Friday to raise the fees alternative telecommunications operators charge each other to connect fixed-line phone calls. _0"> The German telecoms regulator (BNetzA) proposed raising these call termination fees to three times the average rates in many parts of Europe to compensate for steadily declining revenues in the sector. There are over 50 alternative operators in Germany. But the Commission, which opposed similar fee proposals for Deutsche Telekom early this year, is seeking to harmonize such rates across Europe. "It is important for building up a real single market that both operators and consumers face termination rates in Germany that are in line with those in other EU Member States," the EU Commissioner for telecoms Neelie Kroes said on Friday. The commission did not name any alternative operators in its decision but there are over 50 in the German market including EWE Tel GmbH and 1&1 Internet AG.

Fund manager gets 11 years for Facebook, Groupon shares scam

Former fund manager John Mattera was sentenced to 11 years in prison on Friday, after pleading guilty of defrauding investors of $13 million with a story that he put their money in Facebook Inc and Groupon Inc shares before the companies went public. U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan said the sentence, at the high end of what prosecutors requested, was warranted because Mattera devastated his clients' savings, and also because of four prior convictions related to fraud and theft. Mattera had requested a sentence of less than four years. "You hurt a lot of people in a very serious way," Sullivan said, after delivering the sentence. "You've left a lot of wreckage in your path." Mattera, 51, former chairman of the advisory board for mutual fund Praetorian Global Fund Ltd, pleaded guilty in October to charges of securities fraud, wire fraud, money laundering and conspiracy to commit securities fraud and wire fraud in connection with the scheme. He admit

U.S. decision delayed on easing gadget use on airplanes

A Federal Aviation Administration advisory panel weighing whether to ease restrictions on in-flight use of personal technology devices like e-readers has delayed its recommendations by two months until late September, the FAA said on Friday. _0"> The Wall Street Journal, citing industry officials and a draft copy of the panel's report, said on Friday that the group will recommend relaxing restrictions on electronic gadgets. The advisory panel was supposed to finish its work by July 31 but was granted a two-month extension to continue examining whether the use of electronic and WiFi enabled devices, such as iPods, laptops, e-readers and other gadgets, would be safe to use through takeoff and landing and at altitudes under 10,000 feet. The panel is not examining any change in the use of cell phones in flight, which is banned by the Federal Communications Commission.   The FAA said it recognizes that consumers are intensely interested in the use of personal electronics o

Tokyo court says Samsung infringed Apple 'bounce-back' patent

A Tokyo court ruled on Friday that Samsung Electronics Co Ltd had infringed rival Apple Inc's patent for a so-called bounce-back feature on earlier models of its popular smartphones. Samsung and Apple, the world's top two smartphone makers, are fighting patent disputes across the globe as they compete to dominate the lucrative mobile market and win customers with their latest gadgets.   Apple claimed that Samsung had copied the feature, in which icons on its smartphones and tablets quiver back when users scroll to the end of an electronic document. Samsung has already changed its interface on recent models to show a blue line at the end of documents. The Japanese court's decision comes after the U.S. Patent and Trademark office judged earlier this year that Apple's bounce-back patent was invalid, allowing older Samsung models that had a similar feature to remain on sale. However, the U.S. agency subsequently decided that several aspects of the bounce-back feature

Apple CEO's stock grant now subject to share performance

Apple Inc> Chief Executive Tim Cook's one-time stock award worth over $413 million as of Friday is now partly subject to the performance of the shares, a move that followed discussions with the company's largest shareholders. Cook, who has presided over a 42 percent drop in Apple's share price since it touched a high of $705 in September, approached the board to impose a performance criteria on his yet-to-be-vested stocks, according to a filing on Friday.   Under the new system, part of Cook's grant is subject to "Total Shareholder Return", a measure of Apple's stock performance and dividends based on public Standard & Poor's data. The company's board had in January of 2012 granted Cook one million restricted stock units (RSUs) to signal its confidence in Cook after Steve Jobs turned over the helm of the iPhone and iPad maker to his long-time lieutenant in August of 2011. "In outreach discussions this year with many of our larges

Facebook admits year-long data breach exposed 6 million users

Facebook Inc has inadvertently exposed 6 million users' phone numbers and email addresses to unauthorized viewers over the past year, the world's largest social networking company disclosed late Friday. Facebook blamed the data leaks, which began in 2012, on a technical glitch in its massive archive of contact information collected from its 1.1 billion users worldwide. As a result of the glitch, Facebook users who downloaded contact data for their list of friends obtained additional information that they were not supposed to have.   Facebook's security team was alerted to the bug last week and fixed it within 24 hours. But Facebook did not publicly acknowledge the bug until Friday afternoon, when it published an "important message" on its blog explaining the issue. A Facebook spokesman said the delay was due to company procedure stipulating that regulators and affected users be notified before making a public announcement. "We currently have no evidence

Jefferies readies loans for Icahn's Dell bid: sources

Jefferies & Co will provide $5.2 billion in term loans to back Carl Icahn's bid for computer manufacturer Dell Inc, sources told Thomson Reuters LPC. The funding will be launched on Monday at a 4:00 p.m. lender call that the billionaire investor is expected to join, the sources said.   The $5.2 billion is split between a $2.2 billion six-year term loan B-1 and a $3 billion three-year term loan B-2. The six-year tranche will have standard 1 percent amortization, while the shorter-dated tranche amortizes at 10 percent, they said. Icahn declined to comment on details of the term loans on Friday. As previously reported, initial price guidance in May was in the LIB+350 area, subject to change due to market conditions. Earlier this week, Icahn repeated his interest in owning Dell, saying in a telephone interview with Thomson Reuters LPC on Tuesday that he was moving forward with his plans to line up $5.2 billion in credit facilities. His comments echoed statements he made earl

Oracle's Ellison may be interested in second Hawaiian airline

Billionaire Oracle CEO Larry Ellison may be interested in acquiring a second Hawaii airline after he bought most of the tropical island of Lanai last year. Island Air, a Honolulu-based carrier with a handful of island-hopping planes that Ellison bought in February, confirmed discussions between Island and Phoenix-based Mesa Air Group, the parent company of Hawaii's interisland go! Airlines.   "We are committed to building a strong regional airline and part of that process is exploring all options including discussions with Mesa Air," Island Air Chief Executive Officer Paul Casey said in a one-sentence statement. Honolulu's Star-Advertiser newspaper reported on Thursday that Ellison was arranging to take control of go! Airlines, citing an unnamed source familiar with the deal. Mesa CEO Jonathan Ornstein was not immediately available for comment. A spokeswoman said the airline flies 40 flights a day in Hawaii using a fleet of five 50-seat CRJ-200 jets. Oracle dec

Pentagon flash drive ban has many exceptions

The Pentagon has granted many exceptions, possibly numbering in the thousands, to allow staff members who administer secure computer networks to use flash drives and other portable storage devices, department spokesmen say. The exceptions to policies barring the use of such devices could make it easier for rogue employees to remove sensitive documents. But officials say waivers go to people who update software and run helpdesk services for the Pentagon's vast computer network and are needed to run the system efficiently.   The U.S. government's handling of sensitive documents has come under scrutiny since Edward Snowden, a systems administrator for a contractor with the National Security Administration, copied classified materials at a Hawaii installation and leaked them to the news media. Snowden used a simple flash drive to store the materials, according to a government source close to the investigation. Storage devices have been a concern at the Defense Department sinc

Make or break moment for Myanmar reforms in opaque telecoms sector

Companies awarded telecommunications licenses in Myanmar this week will need to spend billions of dollars rolling out networks across a country that has yet to pass a law to govern the sector and where opaque, state-owned enterprises will remain players. The process is being watched closely as a test case for reform in Myanmar, although the risks did not stop 90 international firms and groups from joining the initial phase. Faced with big investments and uncertain returns however, Vodafone Group Plc and China Mobile Ltd dropped their joint bid for a license, saying it did not meet their "internal investment criteria." The remaining 11 short-listed contenders include Singapore Telecommunications Ltd, KDDI Corp and Telenor ASA.   "Nobody has any experience or any idea how the government is going to regulate the sector," said Edwin Vanderbruggen of Yangon-based law firm VDB Loi, which advises telecom companies hoping to do business here. After decades of isolati

Bubba Watson keeps share of lead at Travelers

Bubba Watson retained a share of the lead after the third round of the Travelers Championship on Saturday despite dropping three shots in the last six holes. _0"> The American, chasing his first PGA Tour win since he captured last year's Masters, stumbled with bogeys at the 13th, 15th and 17th holes to finish with a round of even-par 70. Watson will go into the final round at 10-under par, tied for the lead with his countryman Charley Hoffman and Canadian Graham DeLaet, on a heavily congested leaderboard that included England's newly-crowned U.S. Open champion Justin Rose.   "I hit some shots today that were really good, some quality shots but got a couple bad breaks here and there but that's golf," Watson told reporters. "At the end of the day I still have a chance on Sunday and that's what we are always looking for on the weeks we are playing." Hoffman, who opened the tournament with a stunning 61 but fell back with a second round 73

Rollins equals fourth-fastest hurdles time

Brianna Rollins equaled the fourth fastest 100 metres hurdles ever run as she clocked a stunning 12.26 seconds at the U.S. world championship trials on Saturday at Des Moines, Iowa. _0"> Finally catching an allowable wind, the 21-year-old U.S. collegiate record holder sent a strong message to Australian Olympic and world champion Sally Pearson with the fastest time since 1992. Only Bulgarian Yordanka Donkova, whose 1988 world record is 12.21 seconds, and compatriot Ginka Zagorcheva, the former record holder, have run faster. Donkova has done so twice.   "I just feel so overwhelmed, so emotional. It is so amazing," said Rollins, who previous best was 12.39 seconds at the U.S. collegiate championships. The time, run with an aiding wind of 1.2 seconds, exceeded Pearson's 2011 world championship best of 12.28 seconds and three times world champion Gail Devers' American record of 12.33 seconds. "Looks like I am bringing my A++ game to worlds this year,&

Scherzer makes it perfect 11 as Tigers beat Red Sox

Max Scherzer became the first Detroit pitcher in 104 years to open the season with 11 victories as the Tigers destroyed the Boston Red Sox 10-3 in a battle of American League division leaders on Saturday. _0"> Scherzer (11-0) tied George Mullins' start to the 1909 season for the franchise record and also matched the best start to a season since Roger Clemens in 1997 with Toronto. Victor Martinez belted a grand slam and had five RBIs to give Scherzer the run support he needed as the AL Central Tigers improved to 41-32 while the AL East Red Sox fell to 45-32. Arizona's Jason Kubel hit a walk off two-run single to give the Diamondbacks a 4-3 win over Cincinnati, maintaining their place atop the National League West.   Jay Bruce pounded two home runs but it was not enough for the Reds who fell to 44-32 while the Diamondbacks have now won four successive games to improve to 41-33. In inter-league play the Texas Rangers (42-32) were too good for the St. Louis Cardinals

Bad lighting causes Parchment injury in Jamaica

Olympic bronze medalist Hansle Parchment was forced out of the Jamaican national championships after he twisted his ankle due to inadequate lighting during the warmups for the 110 meters hurdles final on Saturday. Parchment, who has run the world's leading time this year of 13.05 seconds, trod on a hurdle in the warmup area shortly before the final, which was won by Andrew Riley. "He was warming up and twisted his left ankle on one hurdle, which was lying around," Parchment's coach Fitz Coleman told Reuters. "The lighting could have been better at the warmup track."   The Jamaican championships are doubling as selection trials for the Caribbean country's squad for the world championships in Moscow from Aug 10-18. The 23-year-old Parchment could still be included for Moscow as the Jamaican athletics' federation rules allow him a wild card selection if he remains in the top three in the world. "I'm happy to win, but it was really disapp

Blackhawks one win from the Cup but pay the price

The Chicago Blackhawks moved to within a win of clinching the Stanley Cup on Saturday beating the Boston Bruins 3-1 in a bone-jarring contest that cost both team key players. The best-of-seven series now shifts to Boston for Game Six on Monday with the Blackhawks holding a 3-2 lead and the Bruins needing a victory to extend the series.   "It's do or die," Boston coach Claude Julien told reporters. "Right now our goal is to create a Game Seven and to create a Game Seven you've got to win Game Six. "It's as simple as that. "There is no panic. You're not going to push us away that easily." After a rollicking 6-5 shootout in Game Four, the teams returned to the close-checking, punishing style seen earlier in the series and both team's paid the price. Patrice Bergeron, Boston's leading scorer with four goals, exited early in the second period and was later taken to hospital with an unspecified injury. The Blackhawks were not imm

Blackhawks' Kane, small in stature but big in the clutch

Patrick Kane is among the smallest players on the ice but the speedy forward continues to rise to the occasion at the game's biggest moments. Just under six feet tall (1.83m), the 24-year-old Blackhawks playmaker has a knack for important goals and on Saturday scored twice in Chicago's 3-1 win over the Boston Bruins in Game Five of the Stanley Cup Finals.   Kane also scored the game winner in overtime in the Cup-clinching game three years ago and his teammates hope his hot streak continues as the series heads back to Boston for Game Six. "He keeps showing up in big games. The Olympics , the Stanley Cup playoffs, you name it. He likes to score on those big stages and he did again tonight," said teammate Patrick Sharp. From Buffalo, New York, the baby-faced Kane is known for his slick stick handling, crisp passing and highlight-reel plays. "He's got a string on the puck," said line mate Bryan Bickell, who had the primary assist on Kane's game wi

Serena apologizes to Sharapova over boyfriend barb

Serena Williams launched a charm offensive on Sunday as she sought to broker a truce with Maria Sharapova and calm the storm surrounding comments she made about a rape victim. On the eve of Wimbledon, where she is defending champion, the pre-tournament focus has been on an interview she gave to Rolling Stone magazine that touched on a high-profile teenage rape case in Ohio and brought her into conflict with her Russian rival Sharapova. The piece included an account of a private conversation between Serena and her sister Venus that the reporter interpreted as an attack on Sharapova's relationship with Bulgarian player Grigor Dimitrov. Sharapova, soundly beaten by Serena in the French Open final earlier this month, hit back on Saturday telling the world number one to keep her nose out of other people's business, adding an edge to the women's competition at the grasscourt slam. "I made it a point to reach out to Maria because she was inadvertently brought into the s

Danish driver Simonsen dies at Le Mans

Motorsport mourned Danish driver Allan Simonsen after his fatal crash at the Le Mans 24 Hours sportscar race on Saturday. _0"> He was the first driver to die in the race for 27 years and the 22nd fatality linked to it since the first running on public roads near the cathedral city in western France 90 years ago. The 34-year-old, driving an Aston Martin, spun into the barriers at Tertre Rouge on lap three after just 10 minutes of an endurance race famed the world over for its glamour and danger. "In a serious condition, Allan Simonsen was transferred immediately to the Circuit Medical Centre where he died soon after due to his injuries," organizers said in a statement on the official website (   Simonsen, one of the world's more experienced endurance drivers at the La Sarthe circuit, was competing in the GTE Am class for production-based sportscars which are slower than the LMP1 and LMP2 prototype categories. Media reports said he was con