Wal-Mart Stores: The High-Court Ponders Class Actions
The U.S. Supreme Court, heeding calls from companies to consider curbing class actions, agreed to rule on whether Wal-Mart (WMT) Stores must face a gender-bias suit brought on behalf of about 1 million of its workers. The suit, the largest ever of its kind, alleges that the retailer paid women less than men for the same jobs and gave female workers fewer promotions. The High Court's ruling on the case could affect several pending suits involving Costco (CSCO), Altria (MO), and other major employers. Separately, Wal-Mart, the largest private employer in the U.S., announced that it will cease paying staff an additional $1 an hour to work Sundays, taking a bite out of its expenses.
Coty: A Cosmetics Empire on the Rise
Coty, the seller of perfumes by Sarah Jessica Parker and Vera Wang, has announced its fourth acquisition in as many weeks. The New York-based company will pay $400 million for a majority stake in TJoy. The Chinese skin-care company has more than 500 distributors that will serve as a sales platform for Coty on the mainland. Privately held Coty, which said sales rose 3 percent in 2010, to $3.6 billion, recently agreed to purchase nail-care company OPI and is buying beauty company Philosophy and the German cosmetics firm Dr. Scheller.
Borders, Barnes & Noble May Join Forces
William Ackman's Pershing Square Capital Management, a New York hedge fund with a 15 percent stake in Borders (BGP), has offered to work with the bookseller on a $960 million takeover of rival Barnes & Noble (BKS). The acquisition would fuse America's two biggest bookstore chains, as sales of paper books slump further and digital books become increasingly popular. While Barnes & Noble now commands about 20 percent of the market for e-books, its brick-and-mortar stores are money losers. Borders, meanwhile, hasn't reported an annual profit in four years.
Apax Partners: Leveraged Buyouts Are Back
Private equity firm Apax Partners is in exclusive discussions with Goldman Sachs (GS) and EQT Partners to buy ISS Holding, a Danish company that is the world's No. 1 provider of cleaning services, for about $8.5 billion, according to people with knowledge of the talks. The purchase would be this year's biggest leveraged buyout, surpassing a recent $5.1 billion takeover of Del Monte Foods (DLM). So far, leveraged buyout firms have led $227 billion in takeovers in 2010, more than double the amount in the same period last year.
Delta Air Lines: Another Anti-Union Vote
For the eighth time since Delta's (DAL) 2008 acquisition of Northwest, a group of workers at the Atlanta-based carrier rejected unionization. The 70 percent vote against joining the International Association of Machinists reaffirms Delta's standing as the least unionized among major U.S. carriers. The IAM said it plans to file an interference claim over "intimidation" tactics by Delta. The Delta vote is among the first under a new National Mediation Board rule that makes it easier for employees to organize by letting the majority of cast ballots determine the outcome. Previously, an abstention was counted as a "no" vote, setting a higher threshold for unions to win approval.
On the Move
— Kellogg (K): COO John A. Bryant to become CEO
— Duke Energy (DUK): Top utility executive James L. Turner steps down amid an ethics investigation
— IAC (IACI): Match.com CEO Gregory R. Blatt named CEO