TOYOTA: ABSOLVED, IN PART
Toyota Motor (TM) CEO Akio Toyoda got some overdue good news on Feb. 8. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and NASA in a joint report said they had found no link between electronics in the company's vehicles and sudden acceleration incidents. The investigation uncovered only mechanical problems. The recall of 8 million autos contributed to a 0.4 percent drop in Toyota's U.S. sales last year—even as industrywide deliveries grew 11 percent—as well as at least 400 lawsuits and record federal fines. Toyota says net income in the year ending Mar. 31 may more than double. The company's stock hit a 10-month high of $44.56 on Feb. 9.
CENTRAL JAPAN RAILWAY: INVESTING IN SPEED
Central Japan Railway is staking $62 billion on building the world's fastest train. Slated for completion in 2027, JR Central's magnetic-levitation train will zip between Tokyo and Nagoya at 311 miles per hour, halving travel time on the 180-mile route to about 40 minutes. JR Central, which had free cash flow of $2.9 billion for the 12 months ended in December, will fund the project with cash, loans, and bonds. Last fiscal year, the company's bullet trains carried 138 million passengers—more than the world's largest airline, United Continental.
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: IN FREE FALL WITHOUT LEBRON
The Cavaliers set an NBA record with their 25th consecutive loss on Feb. 7. The streak highlights the impact of two-time MVP LeBron James's departure. The Cavs won a league-high 61 games last season. James announced in July that he was leaving to play for the Miami Heat. Cavs owner Dan Gilbert responded by calling James "cowardly." Gilbert told Bloomberg Businessweek in October that the Cavs would be "much, much better than most of the pundits are saying."
ROYAL BANK OF SCOTLAND: SHRINKING ITS BONUS POOL
State-owned Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) cut the bonus pool at its investment banking unit by 27 percent to less than $1.5 billion. The decision follows a Feb. 9 announcement by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne that the U.K.'s largest banks agreed to pay lower bonuses and set targets for business lending. The deal, known as Project Merlin, came a day after the U.K. raised taxes on the banking industry by $1.3 billion. Both RBS and Lloyds Banking said cash bonuses for 2010 will be limited to a maximum of $3,200.
LIVE NATION: ON THE PROWL FOR ACQUISITIONS
Concert promotor Live Nation Entertainment (LYV) is looking at possible acquisitions with John Malone's Liberty Media, its largest shareholder. Ties between the companies are strengthening, following Liberty Media's Feb. 7 agreement to raise its stake in Live Nation to over 20 percent, from 18 percent. Live Nation Chairman Irving Azoff pointed to home-shopping channel QVC, Sirius XM Radio (SIRI), and premium cable channel Starz as possible targets. He says Liberty Media's investment lends Live Nation "stability in a very volatile business."
ON THE MOVE
— Wells Fargo (WFC): Timothy Sloan appointed CFO
— Deutsche Bank (DB): Eric Smith to be CFO of the Americas
— American Apparel (APP): John J. Luttrell named executive vice-president and CFO