Best Buy expands into Europe

Top U.S. consumer electronics retailer Best Buy said it’s spending $2.1 billion to buy a 50 percent stake in British rival Carphone Warehouse’s retail operations. Carphone operates 2,400 stores in Europe, giving Best Buy entry into the European market. Best Buy will open its first European stores under its own name in 2009. (MarketWatch) Best Buy said the deal will add $5 billion to this year’s revenue. (Reuters) Carphone Warehouse, the top seller of handsets in Europe, will use the money to pay off debt and expand its Internet services. “Best Buy gets knowledge of the European market quite quickly,” said Daniel Stewart analyst Michael Jeremy. And “this gives Carphone Warehouse more options in broadband.” (Bloomberg)

Toyota profit drops on U.S. weakness

Toyota, the world’s No. 2 automaker, reported a 28 percent drop in quarterly profit, to $3.05 billion, as a stronger yen and weaker U.S. sales weighed down its earnings. Toyota has been shifting its focus to China and other emerging markets, but it still gets a third of its revenue from North America. (AP in Yahoo! Finance) The results came in well below analysts’ expectations. Toyota also forecast that its profit in fiscal 2009 would fall by 27.2 percent, its first annual decline in seven years. (Reuters) “I expect more bad news from the industry,” said Edwin Merner at Tokyo-based Atlantis Investment Research. But with its dominance in hybrid cars, “Toyota should come through this period stronger and better.” (Bloomberg)

Unilever looks up

Anglo-Dutch conglomerate Unilever, the No. 3 consumer goods group, posted a better-than-expected 34 percent rise in quarterly profits, to $2.1 billion. (MarketWatch) The results were boosted by strong sales in Africa and Asia and Unilever’s sale of its Boursin cheese unit. The company also raised prices 4.8 percent in the quarter, effectively offsetting the rising prices of raw ingredients and packaging for its foods, soaps, detergents, and other products. (Reuters) The results are “excellent,” said analyst Christopher Gower at MF Global in London. “Aggressive pricing action was able to mitigate the effect of commodity cost increases.” (Bloomberg)

Reviving the book Bond

James Bond has been a huge success at the box office, but since creator Ian Fleming died in 1966, he has been a slow seller in print. Fleming’s family trust has commissioned 22 Bond books since his death, and the latest, The Man With the Red Tattoo, sold only 5,000 copies in Britain and 13,000 in the U.S. But publishers Penguin and Doubleday are doubling down on a new Bond book, Devil May Care, by a new author, Sebastian Faulks, and set back in Bond’s old heyday, the Cold War. The publishers are hoping Fleming’s 100th birthday this year will help sales, but pocketbook issues might assist, too. “The downturn in the economy has prompted a demand for escapist fare,” said Bob Wietrak at Barnes & Noble. (The Wall Street Journal)