Google: Mulling brick and mortar
Internet search leader Google (GOOG) is considering opening retail stores in the U.S., according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. Last year, Bloomberg reported that the company was planning its first stand-alone store at its European headquarters in Dublin. Google would be following a trail blazed by Apple, whose stores have helped fuel sales of iPhones and iPads. Microsoft (MSFT) expanded its retail presence to help sell Surface tablets. Google, which recently bought Motorola Mobility, could use brick-and-mortar outlets to showcase phones and tablets that use its Android operating system as well as its Nexus-branded handsets and Samsung Chromebook laptops.
Reader’s Digest: Second bankruptcy in four years
The private equity group that owns Reader’s Digest has put the 91-year-old publishing company into bankruptcy to help it shed $465 million in debt. The Chapter 11 filing is the company’s second in four years. A group led by Ripplewood Holdings bought the publisher in 2007, paying $1.6 billion while taking on $800 million in debt. The publisher filed for bankruptcy two years later. Since emerging from that restructuring in 2010, Reader’s Digest has continued to struggle to adapt its 75 magazines to the shift toward digital media.
Apple: A run-in with the bad kind of hackers
Apple (AAPL) disclosed on Feb. 19 that some of its internal Mac systems were affected by a malware attack. The hackers are linked to an Eastern European gang that has targeted at least 40 companies including Facebook (FB) and Twitter in search of corporate secrets, according to two people familiar with the matter. “We identified a small number of systems within Apple that were infected and isolated them from our network,” the company said in a statement. “There is no evidence that any data left Apple.”
Nestlé: Dragged into the horse meat scandal
Nestlé (NESN:VX) withdrew some beef ravioli and beef tortellini products and suspended deliveries in Italy and Spain after the food tested positive for horse DNA. The world’s largest food company said it was removing the chilled pastas immediately and replacing them with 100 percent beef products. Nestlé is the latest company engulfed by the horse meat scandal, which originated in Ireland in mid-January. Retailers across Europe have pulled products such as frozen beef burgers, lasagnas, and meatballs from their shelves.
Discount retailers: February is the cruelest month
Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) is having its worst sales start to a month in seven years, according to internal e-mails obtained by Bloomberg. In one e-mail an executive called the February month-to-date numbers “a total disaster.” The world’s largest retailer blamed the slow start on the consumer squeeze resulting from an increase in the payroll tax that went into effect at year’s end as well as delays in tax refunds. Analysts expect similar short-term slumps for Wal-Mart rivals Target (TGT) and Family Dollar (FDO), as well as car parts dealer AutoZone (AZO).