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Companies in Brief

BMW: Beemer Maker Sees Smooth Road Ahead

The German maker of luxury cars has raised its sales forecast for 2010 based on a better-than-anticipated first half. BMW now expects to sell more than 1.4 million cars and SUVs this year, a 10 percent increase over 2009 and 100,000 more than its previous forecast. BMW, along with its Mini and Rolls-Royce divisions, boosted sales by 13 percent in the first half of the year, to nearly 700,000 units, buoyed by deliveries of the 5 Series, 7 Series, and X1 model.

Intel: Good Tidings from the Tech Bellwether

The world's biggest chipmaker reported record second-quarter sales and topped analysts' estimates with its forecast for the current quarter, allaying concerns that a rebound in technology spending is losing steam. Intel (INTC) said third-quarter sales will be $11.6 billion, plus or minus $400 million. The chipmaker also boosted its gross margin—the percentage of sales remaining after deducting production costs—to 67 percent from 51 percent a year ago. Chief Executive Officer Paul Otellini expects the PC market to rise as much as 16 percent annually through 2014, helping maintain Intel's sales gains.

Burberry: The Purveyor of Plaid Beats Estimates

Burberry topped analyst estimates when it reported a 27 percent gain in first-quarter sales, to $436 million. The British luxury goods retailer was buoyed by rising sales in Asia and increased deliveries to wholesale customers, who are restocking as consumers spend more on high-end apparel and accessories. Burberry plans to add 20 to 30 stores in the Americas and Asia-Pacific this year.

China Life: An Insurer Braces for Competition

China Life (LFC) and other major Chinese insurance companies tumbled in Shanghai trading on July 12 after regulators announced plans to scrap a decades-old price cap on the guaranteed rates of return for certain life insurance contracts. China Life Insurance, the nation's biggest insurer, fell 6.7 percent, and China Pacific Insurance declined 6.6 percent. Analysts say the new regulations will likely intensify price competition and squeeze profit margins.

GlaxoSmithKline: Winding Down the Avandia Controversy

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has agreed to pay about $460 million to resolve a majority of lawsuits alleging the company's Avandia diabetes drug can cause heart attacks and strokes. The settlements, which work out to an average of at least $46,000 apiece, come as the company braces for its first Avandia trial in federal court in Philadelphia in October. On July 14, a majority of the members on a U.S. panel of experts found that data show that Avandia carries a greater risk of heart ailments than other diabetes drugs but stopped short of recommending that the Food & Drug Administration pull it from the market.

Itaú Unibanco: A Homegrown Giant Beats Back Invaders

Itaú Unibanco (IUB) overtook Citigroup (C) and Goldman Sachs (GS) in Brazilian bond underwriting in the first half of 2010, leading a push by local banks to grab market share from international banks hurt by the global financial crisis. Itaú, Brazil's largest bank by market value, also jumped four spots to become the No. 4 manager of overseas bond sales by the Brazilian government and companies, the highest ranking for a local underwriter in more than a decade. Itaú and others are capitalizing on a two-fold rise in overseas issuance this year, to $17.2 billion.

Texas Rangers: The Bankrupt Baseball Club Is Up for Bid

The future of the Texas Rangers, the baseball club that filed for bankruptcy in May, will be decided at an Aug. 4 auction. Current owner Tom Hicks had sought permission from a bankruptcy judge in Fort Worth to sell the club to a group led by Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan and attorney Chuck Greenberg in a transaction valued at $575 million. William Snyder, whom the court appointed to oversee the bankruptcy, wanted to solicit competing bids. On July 13 the judge set the August date for an auction to be opened by the Ryan bid. Snyder says that doesn't leave other bidders much time to pass a background check and win approval from Major League Baseball, which are requirements to buy a club.

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