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Company News: General Motors, Facebook, U.S. Postal Service

General Motors: Big expansion plans in China

The Chinese auto industry is ripe for consolidation, and General Motors (GM), the top foreign carmaker in the country, is eager to help out. Mainland factories have excess production capacity of 10 million vehicles annually, according to LMC Automotive. GM and its Chinese partner SAIC Motor aim to acquire ailing automakers, according to four people who didn’t want to be identified because the plans are private. GM established a target of increasing sales in China by about 75 percent by 2015, to 5 million vehicles. An acquisition may be the optimal route, since Chinese authorities last year discontinued offering incentives for new foreign-owned auto factories.

Facebook: Tracking users on the go

Facebook (FB) is developing a smartphone application that will track the location of users, two people with knowledge of the matter say. The app, which is scheduled for release by mid-March, is designed to help Facebook users find friends nearby and could help the company sell ads based on users’ whereabouts and daily habits. Facebook already records the GPS coordinates of users when they post status updates or check in to a venue. The new feature will work even when the phone isn’t in use.

U.S. Postal Service: An end to Saturday deliveries

The U.S. Postal Service will ask Congress for permission to end Saturday mail deliveries beginning as soon as August, as it seeks to stem losses. With mail volume down 26 percent from its 2006 peak, the post office loses an estimated $25 million a day. By ending delivery of letters on Saturdays, the service would cut 45 million work hours annually and reduce costs by as much as $2 billion a year. The USPS plans to continue six-day deliveries of packages and keep open post offices that now operate on Saturdays.

Duke Energy: Closing a nuclear plant

Duke Energy (DUK) is shutting down a nuclear power plant in Florida and will seek to recoup $1.65 billion from customers for the failed investment under an arrangement allowed by a settlement with state regulators. The 860-megawatt Crystal River reactor has been shut since 2009, when a crack was discovered. Duke inherited the 36-year-old reactor when it bought Progress Energy last year. The company plans to mothball the plant by removing the fuel and monitoring the reactor for as long as 60 years before dismantling it.

Vanguard Group: Record inflows as investors return

Vanguard Group, the biggest U.S. mutual fund firm, attracted a record $24.3 billion from clients in January as signs of an improving U.S. economy prompted investors to move money into equities. The inflows were more than 40 percent greater than the previous monthly record of $16.8 billion from January of last year. About $20 billion of the new investments went into stock-oriented mutual funds and exchange-traded products. Domestic stock funds had been experiencing redemptions for the past six calendar years.

On the Move

— Goldman Sachs: Asset Management Chairman Jim O’Neill, architect of BRIC investing strategy, to retire

— Canadian Pacific Railway: Keith Creel named operating chief

— 3M: Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent elected to the board


Weise is a reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek in Seattle. Follow her on Twitter @kyweise.

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