Company News: Wal-Mart, Shazam, Standard & Poor's, Netflix, Staples, Office DepotBy
● Wal-Mart Stores unveiled a new financial service that allows Americans to collect their income tax refunds in cash at more than 3,000 of its locations. Dubbed Direct2Cash, Walmart’s program will charge nothing, but tax preparers can charge as much as $7 at the time of filing to access the service. The retailer expects Direct2Cash will lift retail sales among the roughly one in four Americans who use check-cashing services or don’t have bank accounts.
● Shazam Entertainment, the company behind an app that identifies songs and TV shows through smartphones, is now worth $1 billion. The valuation is tied to an additional $30 million in financing secured by the London-based company. About 100 million people use Shazam’s app every month, and some marketers are keen on its ability to run location-based ads.
● Standard & Poor’s agreed to pay $77 million to settle federal and state claims that it misled investors about the safety of securities backed by commercial mortgages in the runup to the 2008 financial crisis. The credit-rating agency also agreed to a one-year ban from grading certain mortgage bonds.
● Netflix shocked investors and TV fans with a far more aggressive pace of expansion. The streaming-video service said it would operate in 200 countries within two years, prompting 11 analysts to raise their stock price forecasts. Netflix has 4.3 million subscribers in 50 countries.
● Activist hedge fund Starboard Value is lobbying for a merger between Staples and Office Depot. The fund, which holds a 6 percent stake in Staples and 10 percent of Office Depot, has been making its case to both companies. Antitrust regulators blocked an attempted merger between the two companies in 1997.