American International Group: The U.S. lowers its stake
Taxpayers are no longer the majority shareholder in American International Group (AIG), the insurer rescued by the government in 2008. The U.S. Department of the Treasury sold $20.7 billion in shares to reduce its AIG holdings from 53 percent to 16 percent. When the government sells off its remaining stake, AIG will have the freedom to issue dividends and increase executive pay, which is capped as a condition of the $182.3 billion bailout. CEO Robert Benmosche has looked to shed non-core businesses, including the airplane-leasing unit. He also may close the company’s bank to limit the effects of the Volcker Rule, which curbs proprietary trading.
HarperCollins: Lower-priced e-books on the way
HarperCollins Publishers (NWSA) has reached an agreement with Amazon.com (AMZN) and other e-commerce companies to let the retailers sell e-books at discounted prices. HarperCollins is the first publisher to announce new contracts after settling claims with the U.S. government that it, Hachette Book Group (MMB:FP), and Simon & Schuster (CBS) conspired to fix e-book prices and prevent retailer discounts. The publishers had 30 days to start negotiating new contracts after a judge approved the settlement on Sept. 6.
Coca-Cola: Reviving masala soda to grow in India
Coca-Cola (KO) is stepping up its long-running rivalry with PepsiCo (PEP) for dominance in India, the company’s fastest- growing major market. It’s reviving old brands including RimZim, a “masala soda” flavored with cumin and other spices, and expanding distribution networks as part of a $5 billion drive in India, where its sales per capita are one-seventh the global average. Weak infrastructure means Coke is only reaching about one in five, or 1.7 million, of the potential outlets. It aims to be in at least one in three outlets within three years.
L’Oréal: FDA adds a wrinkle for anti-aging ads
U.S. regulators told L’Oréal (OR:FP) to tone down marketing claims for its Lancome anti-aging creams or submit the products for approval, as required for prescription drugs. The Food and Drug Administration said some of the company’s marketing for night creams, sunscreens, and eye lifters offer more than simple beautification and instead promise to alter the body’s function or structure. The FDA has scrutinized a growing number of beauty treatments. L’Oréal didn’t respond to requests for comment.
UBS: A record whistleblower payout
A former UBS (UBS) banker who went to prison after telling the Internal Revenue Service how he and the bank helped Americans evade taxes secured a whistle-blower award of $104 million, the largest individual federal payout in U.S. history. Bradley Birkenfeld told authorities how UBS bankers came to the U.S. to woo rich Americans and helped them cheat the IRS. After Birkenfeld’s disclosures, UBS admitted to aiding tax evasion and paid $780 million to avoid prosecution. The bank also turned over data on Swiss accounts to U.S. authorities.