Toyota Motor: Prius is the world’s No. 3 bestseller
Toyota’s (TM) Prius, a niche hybrid engine oddity when it debuted 15 years ago, became the world’s third-bestselling car line in the first quarter. The showing propelled Toyota into the No. 1 spot globally by sales after two years of recalls and production disruptions. Prius sales worldwide more than doubled, to 247,230, trailing only Toyota’s Corolla, at 300,800, and Ford Motor’s (F) 277,000 Focus sales. In Japan, where the government is offering incentives of as much as $2,500 to spur purchases of fuel-efficient autos, Prius sales more than tripled. In the U.S., Toyota’s top market for the hybrid, sales rose 42 percent.
Banana Republic: Mad Men fashion flies off the racks
Clothing inspired by the 1960s Mad Men series and its main characters Don Draper and Peggy Olson helped Banana Republic post record first-quarter sales. The upscale Gap (GPS) brand’s North American same-store sales rose 5 percent in the three months ended April 28, while total revenue rose 7.4 percent, to $622 million. The Mad Men line, created with Emmy Award-winning costume designer Janie Bryant, was Banana Republic’s first collection with an outside designer.
Opera Software: Facebook’s next acquisition?
Opera Software (OPERA:NO), the Norwegian maker of Web browsers, surged 26 percent following reports that Facebook (FB) may try to acquire the company in a bid to launch its own browser. According to Tony Cripps, an analyst at Ovum in London, the rumored acquisition could help Facebook create its own smartphone or help improve its services on mobile phones, computers, and televisions. Opera is the last major independent for-profit browser, with the others owned by companies such as Microsoft (MSFT), Google (GOOG), and Apple (AAPL).
Wells Fargo: Ending a Memphis lawsuit
U.S. home lender Wells Fargo (WFC) pledged more than $435 million in loans and investments to end a discrimination lawsuit brought by Memphis. The bank will invest $7.5 million in the city and surrounding Shelby County, provide $4.5 million in home renovation and down payment grants, and make $425 million in mortgages available during the next five years. The accord ends a suit filed more than two years ago alleging that the company discriminated against minority homeowners. Wells Fargo denies the allegations.
Research In Motion: Looking to banks for strategic advice
Reeling from sluggish BlackBerry sales, Research In Motion (RIMM) forecast a surprise operating loss for its first quarter, which ends June 2. The Waterloo (Ontario)-based company has hired JPMorgan Chase (JPM) and RBC Capital Markets (RY) to help evaluate strategic options, such as forging partnerships and licensing its software. RIM also plans to streamline operations by reducing the company’s spending and head count. An operating loss would be the company’s first since 2004, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.