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The news at a glance

Toyota: Carmaker hid accelerator problems; Telecommunications: Palm goes up for sale; Advertising: Apple challenges Google in mobile ads; Retailing: Wal-Mart rolls back 10,000 prices; Utilities: Merger creates a powerhouse

Toyota: Carmaker hid accelerator problemsInternal Toyota documents show that the Japanese carmaker “stalled in fulfilling its recall pledges and treated safety concerns in the United States differently from those in Europe and Canada,” said Micheline Maynard in The New York Times. The documents, which Toyota provided to Congress and were released last week, indicate that in late September, Toyota warned drivers and dealers worldwide about suspicions that floor mats could be causing accelerator pedals to stick. Canadian and European dealers were issued repair guidelines within days of that warning. But the company did not instruct U.S. dealers how to repair the problem until Nov. 25. 

Evasion has been a common Toyota tactic, said Curt Anderson and Danny Robbins in the Associated Press. In a review of lawsuits involving a wide range of product-liability complaints, the company was found to have “hidden the existence of tests” harmful to its position while withholding “potentially damaging documents.” Toyota insists that “it plays by the rules when defending itself.”

Telecommunications: Palm goes up for salePalm, the financially ailing maker of mobile phone handsets, is seeking a buyer, said Dan Gallagher in Marketwatch.com. Since its stock peaked at $18.09 last September, the company’s market value has plummeted more than 75 percent, “making it a ripe target for acquisition rumors.” HTC, the Taiwanese smart phone maker that was the first to use Google’s Android operating system, has been mentioned as one possible suitor. Analysts say Palm would probably fetch a price of at least $1.7 billion.

Advertising: Apple challenges Google in mobile adsApple has thrown down a direct challenge to Google’s mainstay business of online advertising, announcing plans to introduce a mobile advertising platform called iAd, said Tom Krazit in CNET.com. The iAd platform will allow marketers to create advertisements that appear within apps for the Apple iPhone. The ads can be programmed to appear on the iPhone before the app begins playing. Apple hopes iAd will pry advertisers away from Google by offering them a chance to reach a captive audience using “one of the premier mobile devices on the planet.”

Retailing: Wal-Mart rolls back 10,000 pricesReacting to a 1.6 percent sales decline in its most recent quarter, Wal-Mart has reduced prices on more than 10,000 items, said Chris Burritt in Bloomberg.com. Ironically, short-term price cuts on flat-screen TVs and food items had contributed to the revenue drop-off at Wal-Mart stores open a year or longer; the lower prices did not generate enough sales volume to offset declines in revenue per unit sold. The company is hoping price cuts lasting a month or more will produce sales gains.

Utilities: Merger creates a powerhousePower plant operators Mirant and RRI Energy have agreed to merge in a stock swap worth $1.6 billion, said Tom Fowler in the Houston Chronicle. The deal would create one of the largest independent power plant operators in the country, with 47 plants in 12 states capable of generating almost 25,000 megawatts of power. Unlike regulated utilities, which provide electricity to households and businesses, independent power plant operators sell power in wholesale markets.

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