Foxconn Technology Group: Progress on factory conditions
Apple’s largest supplier, Foxconn Technology Group, improved conditions at its China factories, the Fair Labor Association said on Aug. 21 in the first report following an audit that had found more than 50 breaches of regulations at three Foxconn plants. Since the audit, Foxconn redesigned equipment deemed dangerous and is working with authorities to get migrant workers access to unemployment insurance. It also reduced overtime to an average of 20 hours per week and has pledged to trim it to the legal weekly maximum of nine hours by July 2013. According to China Labor Watch, however, employees clocking fewer hours must still complete the same amount of work as before.
BMW: Giving scooters another shot
BMW is reviving its scooter ambitions after a nine-year hiatus. The German automaker has long produced a line of powerful motorcycles for highway riding, but the new so-called maxi scooters aim at a younger, more urban crowd. They’re speedy and powerful but also feature heated seats and grips. Two models, the C600 Sport and C650 GT, went on sale for as little as €11,100 ($13,800) in Europe in July, and BMW is developing an electric scooter called the C evolution, slated to launch in 2014.
Barnes & Noble: There’s always erotica
Barnes & Noble is crediting sales of the steamy Fifty Shades of Grey series—along with the liquidation of its archrival, Borders—with helping the company narrow losses this quarter, to $41 million. That’s down from a loss of $56 million from the same period last year. E L James’s racy books have already sold 40 million copies worldwide, including 20 million in the U.S. The sales helped offset losses from Barnes & Noble’s efforts to develop and market its Nook tablet computers and e-books.
U.S. Postal Service: As Homer would say, “D’oh!”
The U.S. Postal Service hoped that commemorative stamps of cartoon character Homer Simpson and his family would be twice as popular as those of Elvis Presley. Instead, the service sold less than a third of the 1 billion The Simpsons stamps it produced, wasting $1.2 million in printing costs. The USPS’s inspector general singled out the overproduction of the stamps, which marked the 20th anniversary of the cartoon’s run, in a report as an example of failure to align stamp production with demand.
Insurers: Drought costs add up
Private crop insurers, a group led by Wells Fargo and Ace, may face losses topping $5 billion if this year’s U.S. drought ends up worse than one in 1988, Standard & Poor’s says. Hot, dry weather across much of the Midwest has damaged crops and driven up insurance loss estimates. The U.S. subsidizes farmers’ premiums for coverage that protects against a loss of revenue or production due to inclement weather. Private insurers sell and administer the coverage, backstopped by the federal government.