Google: Music and Movie Features Unveiled
Google (GOOG) is making a bigger push into entertainment services, adding music storage and movie rental features to its Android software for phones and tablets. Google Music Beta, introduced on May 10, will store song libraries and playlists-and even suggest music based on listener collections. The service will rely on cloud computing to deliver songs over the Internet. Google's YouTube will add 3,000 full-length titles to its movie rental options, intensifying its rivalry with Netflix (NFLX). The movies will be available to U.S. users for $1.99 through the Android Market. Google is playing catch-up with key rivals such as Amazon.com (AMZN) and Apple (AAPL), which already offer similar movie and music features.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: The Arab Spring Has been Good to Me
Wael Ghonim, the 30-year-old former Google executive credited with helping to organize and inspire protests in Egypt that led to the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, won a seven-figure book deal from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to write the inside story of the Egyptian revolution. Ghonim was among those who mobilized protestors through technology and social media. His book, Revolution 2.0, is slated for publication in January 2012. Ghonim will write in Arabic and is also in final discussions with Arabic-language publishers.
Barclays, HSBC, RBS: British Banks Face Big Payout
The British Bankers' Assn. on May 9 abandoned legal attempts to appeal an April ruling in favor of customers who claimed the lenders provided faulty advice to customers buying personal-loan insurance. In deciding not to appeal, British banks, including Lloyds Banking Group, Barclays (BCS), HSBC (HBC), and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), may be forced to pay more than $13 billion in compensation. Lloyds, the first to break ranks and walk away from the case, is setting aside about $5.2 billion to settle potential claims.
AIG: A Baby Step Toward Independence
American International Group (AIG) and the U.S. Treasury Dept. will offer 300 million shares of common stock of the bailed-out insurer, as the company seeks to replace government investment with private capital. AIG will sell 100 million shares and the government, which owns 92 percent of the insurer, will offer 200 million. The sale could raise an estimated $9 billion, far less than originally anticipated. AIG plunged 42 percent on the NYSE (NYX) between Jan. 7 and May 10, partly due to losses on claims from the quake in Japan.
General Motors: Sued by Retired Employees
Dozens of General Motors (GM) executive retirees on May 9 sued the company, alleging their benefits were erroneously withheld after the automaker's bankruptcy. The pensioners, including former Vice-President John G. Middlebrook, claim GM violated the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act. They are asking a judge to order GM to pay past-due benefits with interest, plus legal fees and expenses. Company spokesman Jim Cain said the claims were properly considered and denied.
On the Move
— Oprah Winfrey Network: CEO Christina Norman dismissed
— Boston Scientific (BSX): CEO J. Raymond Elliott to retire
— BP Europa: Michael Schmidt appointed CEO
— Penske Automotive (PAG): David K. Jones named VP and CFO