Mixed month for automakers

Ford reported a 20.5 percent drop in sales in September and Toyota booked its third monthly decline, but General Motors, Honda, and Nissan all recorded increases in sales. (MarketWatch) Honda/Acura’s 13.8 percent monthly gain was sparked by a new Accord model. GM’s modest 4 percent jump in sales, and slight increase in U.S. market share to 25.5 percent, was led by redesigned SUVs and trucks. “If the domestics can make desirable cars that are priced and designed right and attractive to customers, there’s no reason they can’t sell a lot of them,” said Edmunds analyst Jesse Toprak. (

Microsoft updates iPod rival

Microsoft unveiled a refreshed line of its Zune portable media players, available in mid-November. (MarketWatch) The company has sold 1.2 million Zunes and is the No. 4 seller of portable players with 3 percent of the market, compared with Apple’s iPod-driven 71 percent. Microsoft is aiming to be No. 2. “Microsoft’s technology is pretty good,” said JupiterResearch analyst Michael Gartenberg. “The challenge is marketing, so that you can be seen using a Zune and not have to hide in a corner.” (Bloomberg) Verizon Wireless is taking on Apple’s iPhone—sold only through AT&T—with a new LG touch-screen smart phone. (Reuters)

Sallie Mae is not impressed

Student loan giant Sallie Mae received, and rebuffed, a revised $21 billion takeover offer from a group of investors. The $50-a-share offer from the group, led by J.C. Flowers, is about $4.2 billion less than the $60-a-share offer agreed to in April. But shareholders would get up to another $10 a share in five years if Sallie Mae meets or exceeds profit projections. (The Washington Post) The buyers say a new law that cuts federal subsidies lets them walk away from the initial offer. “Sallie Mae needs to seriously consider the offer,” said CreditSights analyst Richard Hofmann. “Submitting a revised proposal shows there is interest.” (Bloomberg)

Sports leagues betting on Vegas

A recent spate of game-fixing scandals has college and pro sports reexamining their attitudes about Las Vegas. A decade ago, sports leagues wanted nothing to do with the gambling industry. But now the NCAA, NFL, NHL, and NBA have all quietly hired Los Vegas Sports Consultants Inc.—which advises casinos on the point spreads of sporting events—to look for suspicious gambling activity. “The leagues have a public stance that, ‘We don’t like gaming, we don’t like Vegas,’” says professional gambler Ted Sevransky. “But the reality is that without Las Vegas and without sports betting, their giant empires would crumble.” (The Wall Street Journal)