Company News: América Móvil, Google, Maersk, Carlyle, Intrade

América Móvil: A breakup threat

Carlos Slim’s América Móvil, which has 70 percent of Mexico’s mobile-phone subscribers and 80 percent of its land lines, may face a breakup, thanks to pending legislation to rein in the country’s telecom monopolies. The proposed law would create an agency to regulate competition in Mexico’s $30 billion phone and broadcasting industries, which are dominated by a handful of the nation’s wealthiest people. Smaller carriers that have struggled to compete against América Móvil could seek takeovers from non-Mexican companies for the first time. The news sent shares of Slim’s América Móvil to their lowest price in almost four years.

Google: Becoming the tablet leader

Google’s mobile software is on track to run on more tablets than Apple’s operating system for the first time this year, says research firm IDC. Devices running Google’s Android software will climb to 49 percent of the market in 2013, up from 46 percent last year, while Apple’s share will slip to 46 percent from 51 percent. Tablets starting at about $200 are gaining ground on Apple’s iPads, which start at $329. On March 13, Google announced Sundar Pichai will replace Android co-founder Andy Rubin at the helm of the business.

Maersk Line: Adios, Panama

Starting in April, Maersk Line, the world’s biggest shipper, will send Asian cargo to the U.S. East Coast through Egypt’s Suez Canal rather than the Panama Canal. Vessels traveling the Suez carry as many as 9,000 20-foot boxes at a time—about twice the load that can ship via the Panama Canal. That will allow Maersk to pay fewer per-ship fees, even though the ships will be at sea longer. An expansion of the Panama Canal to allow for bigger ships has been delayed six months to a mid-2015 opening.

Carlyle Group: Opening to the slightly less wealthy

Carlyle Group, the world’s second-biggest private equity firm by assets, is lowering the minimum a person can invest in a new buyout-focused fund as it seeks to expand its number of so-called limited partners. Wealthy investors will need to commit as little as $50,000 to buy into the fund. The previous minimum was at least $5 million. Carlyle co-founder David Rubenstein has said he expects individual investors will outpace pension funds and other public institutions in making commitments to private equity and other alternative-asset funds.

Intrade: An audit halts all betting

Intrade, a website that lets people bet on elections, the weather, and other events, stopped trading activity on March 11 as it investigated possible financial irregularities. The firm won’t pay customers from their online accounts while the investigation is in progress. In November, Intrade ceased U.S. operations after the Commodity Futures Trading Commission sued it for allegedly offering improper options trading; in February, Intrade’s auditors expressed concern over payments to the accounts of the firm’s late founder.

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