British Banking Blues, Happiness at HP

Another British mortgage lender hits the skids. Tech bellwether HP sees a healthy boost in global sales. And NBC is moving to end a seasonal tradition that dates back to radio days.


British mortgage lender scraps guidance

Shares of British mortgage lender Alliance & Leicester dropped sharply early today—hitting their lowest level ever—on a raft of bad news. (Bloomberg) The bank rescinded its 2008 earnings targets, raised its annual dividend less than expected, and confirmed a $360 million write-down in subprime-backed assets. ( “The outlook is miserable,” said analyst James Hutson at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods. “The only positive may be a white knight if the stock falls enough.” (Reuters) But the news from European banking stocks wasn’t all bad, as France’s BNP Paribas rose after it met earnings forecasts, and Dutch bank ING was up on an 18 percent rise in profits. (MarketWatch)

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HP soars on global sales

Hewlett-Packard, the world’s largest technology company, reported a 38 percent jump in quarterly profits, to $2.13 billion, beating Wall Street expectations. It also raised its outlook for the year. The report sent HP shares up 5 percent in extended trading. ( About 69 percent of HP’s total revenue came from outside the U.S., especially from emerging markets, and analysts said the limited exposure to the flagging U.S. market was key to the company’s success. (AP in Yahoo! Finance) “They are well-positioned, in all the right markets,” said American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu. (Los Angeles Times, free registration)

Oil hits a new high

Oil futures jumped $4.51 a barrel in New York yesterday to close at a record high of $100.01, falling from an intraday peak of $100.10. In extended trading, oil fell back below $100. (Reuters) The spike was attributed to supply fears following a refinery fire in Texas on Monday, violence in Iraq and Nigeria, and an embargo threat from Venezuela. But the larger concern is that global demand is outstripping supply. The high oil prices will drive up gas prices, analysts say. “We’re looking at retail prices for regular unleaded of $3.50 to $3.75 in April and May,” said analyst Tom Kloza at Oil Price Information Service. “Those will be records.” (The New York Times, free registration)

An NBC change of seasons

NBC Universal announced that it is scrapping the venerable “fall season” for a 52-week schedule that introduces new TV shows throughout the year. The move, which caters to advertisers looking for a steady influx of new material, could mark an end to a tradition that dates back to the days of radio. NBC will also give the advertisers more input in the schedule, including matching up brands and shows. NBC is pitching its shows this year earlier than CBS and ABC. “NBC is the test bed,” said Aaron Cohen at ad-buyer Horizon Media in New York. “If buyer reaction is good, it will get considered by the others.” (The New York Times, free registration)

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