Twitter/Yahoo!: Escalations in the mobile photo war
Twitter and Yahoo’s (YHOO) Flickr have unveiled new tools to adjust the color, size, and style of photos uploaded to mobile apps in a direct challenge to Facebook’s (FB) Instagram. The new photo tools came a week after Instagram—in a bid to generate more revenue by driving traffic to its own website—made it harder for users to embed photos in Tweets. Both Twitter and Flickr worked with the software maker Aviary to develop the picture tools. In other mobile upgrades, Twitter now allows users to add video and audio to posts, and Yahoo upgraded its e-mail service to be faster and easier to navigate on the go.
Berkshire Hathaway: Expanding buybacks
Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) cleared the way to buy back more shares, signaling that the billionaire chairman views its stock as undervalued. Berkshire bought $1.2 billion in shares from the estate of a longtime shareholder, and on Dec. 12 increased by 9 percent how much it is willing to pay for other shares. It will now pay up to 120 percent of the per share price of the company’s assets minus liabilities. The buybacks come as Buffett looks for large acquisitions and other ways to deploy Berkshire’s $47.8 billion cash hoard.
Diageo: Adios to Cuervo
Diageo (DEO), the world’s largest distiller, has abandoned talks to buy Jose Cuervo tequila and will seek to end its 26-year-old agreement to distribute the brand. Cuervo was expected to be valued at more than $3 billion. The distribution deal expires at the end of June 2013, fueling speculation that Diageo will seek a new tequila partner. Options may include Beam (BEAM), which owns Sauza tequila, says Anthony Bucalo, an analyst for Grupo Santander. Diageo says it will look to acquire small brands in the premium spirits category.
Jefferies Group: Cash for bankers
The investment bank Jefferies Group (JEF) will pay cash yearend bonuses for 2012, according to a memo to employees. Other financial firms have favored deferred compensation such as stock awards that vest over several years. Regulators have urged banks to defer more compensation, arguing that it will discourage employees from taking risks that pump up their current pay while hurting the company later. In November, Jefferies agreed to be acquired by its biggest shareholder, Leucadia National, in a $2.8 billion deal.
Amgen: Letting DNA be a guide
Amgen (AMGN), the world’s largest biotechnology firm, agreed to buy research company DeCode Genetics for $415 million to help develop new medicines that target defective DNA. DeCode, which was owned by private equity firms, analyzes genes to pinpoint variations linked to diseases and disorders, such as cancers or heart disease. Amgen hopes DeCode will help it ascertain which drug therapies are worth devoting resources to develop.