GM, hitting new lows, looks to reverse fortunes

General Motors stock fell in eight of the past nine trading sessions, leaving it with a market capitalization of $7.3 billion, down from $14.1 billion at the beginning of the year. That makes GM worth less that Starbucks, The Gap, and video game retailer GameStop, to name a few companies. (Los Angeles Times, free registration) GM rolled out broad incentives yesterday to reverse sharply falling sales, and said it would cut production and raise prices 3.5 percent on 2009 models. GM is at risk of losing the top U.S. auto seller crown to Toyota this month, as Toyota has steadily been gaining ground on its U.S. rivals. Toyota has a market capitalization of $154 billion. (The Wall Street Journal)

Britain’s BG makes hostile bid for energy rival Origin

BG Group, Britain’s No. 3 oil and gas producer, made a hostile $13.1 billion offer for Australia’s Origin Energy, a month after Origin’s board rejected the same offer. The offer, which represents a 48 percent premium to Origin’s stock price before the earlier, friendly bid was announced, is contingent on 50.1 percent of Origin shareholders agreeing to sell. (MarketWatch) BG wants Origin’s coal seam gas reserves to expand into the Asia-Pacific region’s fast-growing gas market. Origin’s board, which had originally accepted the offer, now says it undervalues the gas reserves. “It’s a very generous offer,” said Gavin Wendt at Fat Prophets Funds Management, “and I think some shareholders may be swayed and may decide to just take the money and run.” (Reuters)

Nokia buys mobile software firm Symbian

Nokia, the world’s No. 1 mobile phone maker, offered to buy the 52 percent of mobile software firm Symbian it doesn’t already own for $410 million. Nokia said it will make Symbian, which runs two-thirds of all smartphones and 6 percent of cellphones, royalty-free in response to rising competition from Google’s nascent Android operating system and Apple’s iPhone. (MarketWatch) Symbian’s closest rival currently is Microsoft’s Windows Mobile system. “Lower price points are what operators and the market need to push smartphone adoption, and dropping royalty is going to help that,” said Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi. “For operators this offers a good alternative to Android.” (Reuters)

Trying to crack the Web password

The Information Card Foundation, a consortium that includes Google, Microsoft, and eBay’s PayPal, wants to help you cut down on the number of Internet passwords you have to remember. The group is proposing a driver’s license-like i-card that will manage Web users’ identity online. This secure digital identification card would replace user names and passwords. The foundations is working to create open standards that all Web companies can use. But getting them to use it could be a much bigger challenge. “The technology is available today, but what is not available today is a lot of sites that will accept information cards,” said Robert Blakeley at the Burton Group. (The New York Times, free registration)