National City bank reported under federal watch

Ohio-based regional bank National City is effectively on probation with federal regulators, after reaching a memorandum of understanding with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, The Wall Street Journal reported. Such agreements, which are confidential, generally allow banks to work with regulators to fix financial problems without spooking depositors. (Reuters) The Journal said that “a handful” of other medium-sized banks have also probably entered into similar memoranda of understanding. National City, whose shares are down 85 percent versus a year ago, appeared to have recovered its subprime-battered footing after securing $7 billion in financing in April. (MarketWatch)

Wal-Mart looks to expand offerings

Wal-Mart, before its annual shareholders’ meeting today, said it’s strongly considering entering the electronics installation and repair business, taking on Best Buy’s Geek Squad. The world’s largest retailer also said it is looking to expand into Southeast Asia. (MarketWatch) Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Club subsidiary is experimenting with expansion, too, opening a test Sam’s Club Business Center in Houston that will sell bulk office supplies and food for restaurants and smaller retailers. (AP in Wal-Mart reported a much-better-than-expected 3.9 percent rise in same-store sales yesterday. “Wal-Mart is simply benefiting from the cost-conscious consumer,” said Russell Jones at AlixPartners LLP. (Bloomberg)

Take-Two rakes in profit off Grand Theft

Video game maker Take-Two Interactive reported a better-than-expected $98.2 million quarterly profit, due largely to the successful launch of “Grand Theft Auto IV” two days before the end of the quarter. Take-Two said it has sold 8.5 million copies of the game. (The New York Times) The company said it’s in merger “discussions” with more than one suitor, but that it’s current share price of $27.65 shows that rival Electronic Arts’ buyout offer of $2 billion, or $25.74 a share, is too low. (MarketWatch) Janco Partners analyst Mike Hickey said that Take-Two’s Rockstar unit, which makes “Grand Theft Auto,” could bring in an “absolutely astounding” $1 billion or more in sales by itself this year. (Bloomberg)

The beautiful sport, growing up

The Beijing Olympics this summer is expected to be the most-watched televised sporting event of the year, but soccer’s European Championship could give it a run for its money. The 23-day tournament starts tomorrow, featuring some of soccer’s best-known personalities and national teams. UEFA, the organizer of Euro 2008, expect it to bring in $1.95 billion from media rights and ticket sales, which would be a 47 percent increase over the last tournament in 2004. TV viewership in Latin America and Asia was up 30 percent four years ago, said Kevin Alavy at Future Sport + Entertainment, and it will rise again this year. “We will be present on television all over the world,” said UEFA’s William Gaillard. (Bloomberg)