Microsoft beats forecasts, but not enough

Microsoft reported an 11 percent dip in quarterly profits, to $4.39 billion, beating analysts’ expectations, and issued a rosy forecast for fiscal 2009. Microsoft, which now gets two-thirds of its revenue from abroad, said it saw no big impact from the U.S. economic slowdown. (The New York Times) Its shares fell 5 percent in exteded trading, however, due to disappointing guidance for the current quarter and uncertainly over its bid for Yahoo! (AP in Yahoo! Finance) Tomorrow is Microsoft’s deadline for Yahoo! to decide on the offer before it launches a proxy fight. CFO Chris Liddell said Yahoo! had “unrealistic expectations” about its value, and that Microsoft could withdraw its offer. (Reuters)

Ericsson soars after 55 percent profit drop

Sweden’s Ericsson, the largest maker of wireless networks, reported a 55 percent drop in quarterly profit, to $445 million, which beat forecasts. Its shares rose 23 percent in early trading in Stockholm, notching their biggest gain in five years. (Bloomberg) Ericsson attributed the loss to research and acquisition costs and a 48 percent drop in profits at its cellphone joint venture with Sony. (AP in Overall sales fell 7 percent in Europe, but jumped 39 percent in the U.S., reflecting an unexpected rise in investment to upgrade wireless networks. “North America was the star of the show,” said Nomura International analyst Richard Windsor. (MarketWatch)

Honda dented by tax dispute

Honda Motor Co., Japan’s No. 2 automaker, reported an 86 percent fall in quarterly profit, to $244 million, due in part to the setting aside of $767 million for a possible tax settlement. Honda forecast a weak year due to rising material costs, the relatively strong yen, and soft U.S. car market. (Reuters) “The forecasts represent the worst case scenario,” said Hitoshi Yamamoto at Fortis Asset Management Japan Co. But “they may start to reduce their reliance on the U.S.” (Bloomberg) Mitsubishi said its quarterly profits fell 37 percent, to $125 million, despite rising sales, and Mazda posted a 48 percent jump in profits, to $450 million. (AP in Yahoo! Finance)

For Irish pubs, prosperity bests posterity

Ireland is booming, which is good news for its citizens but bad news for its rural pubs. About 1,000 of them have been shuttered over the past three years, driven to close by the faster pace of life and increasing options for its newly affluent former patrons, as well as the indoor smoking ban and stricter drunk driving laws. The closures are hitting older Irish harder, and the remaining 5,000 rural pubs are trying to adapt to the tastes of their more urbane clientele. “Twenty years ago, if you asked a barman for a cappuccino, he would have looked at you as if you had two heads,” says Michael O’Keefe of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland. (The Washington Post, free registration)