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McDonald’s to give China restaurants a makeover


BEIJING– McDonald’s Corp. is looking to beef up its image in China to lure diners amid an economic slowdown that could send them looking for cheaper alternatives.

The Oak Brook, Ill., company is overhauling a number of its China-based stores in places like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou using a local designer, according to a company statement. It is also launching a new advertising campaign that focuses on Chinese aspirations and recruiting more locals to run its franchises in China. McDonald’s will also feature basketball star LeBron James in China-focused commercials later this year, the statement said.

The fast-food chain is also airing a three-minute ad that will appear later Friday, just after the widely watched evening news on China’s state broadcaster China Central Television. Both the length and time slot mark a rare purchase for McDonald’s. WPP PLC’s media-buying agency Group M estimates that time slot costs about $131,000.

The move comes as China’s economic growth slows. The country reported Wednesday that first-quarter growth fell to 7.4% from a year ago, its lowest level in 18 months and down from 7.7% in the fourth quarter. There is little sign that the economy will manage much faster growth in the near term.

China’s would-be burger eaters head to cheaper local restaurants, like noodle joints, as the speed of growth slows, executives told investors last year in conference calls. A McDonald’s Egg McMuffin with soy milk costs around 14 yuan, or $2.25, roughly double the price of buying steamed buns and soy milk at a street-side shop.

Last year, McDonald’s faced tough times in China, with comparable sales down 3.6% compared with 2012.

Industry experts say localizing is a good move for McDonald’s, which struggled initially in China because it didn’t localize its menu while other rivals did.

“This should help the company attract consumers that might otherwise be going to other restaurants,” said Ben Cavender, a principal at Shanghai-based consultancy China Market Research.

McDonald’s faces challenges in other markets. In Japan it named a new chief executive last August in an attempt to reverse falling sales and profits. It has shuffled its menu items, introducing free extra condiments, new breakfast plates and cheaper hamburger options. In its home market, the burger chain acknowledged in November that U.S. customers were rebelling against long wait times and menus that changed too often.

Chief Executive Don Thompson told investors in January that the company has emphasized value offerings in China and that “given the opportunities inherent in a growing, more prosperous middle-class, we also continue to grow through expansion in China. We opened 275 restaurants last year.”

McDonald’s has said it plans to open another 300 restaurants in China this year, adding to its nearly 2,000 in the country.

With new store designs incorporating wood and brick patterns pulled from China’s dynastic era, and a menu that added green tea ice cream this year and rice dishes last year, McDonald’s is signaling an attempt to look more Chinese. New commercials zero in on reaching customers who aspire to own a car and buy a house.

Write to Laurie Burkitt at laurie.burkitt@wsj.com and Julie Jargon at julie.jargon@wsj.com

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SOURCE: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/mcdonalds-to-give-china-restaurants-a-makeover-2014-04-18-2485033

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Chobani revamps product line-up, mulls IPO


Chobani Inc. is venturing beyond the basic yogurt cups that made it famous, with plans to launch an array of new Greek yogurt products this year including desserts and savory dips.

The top seller of Greek yogurt in the U.S. is hoping the products will allow it to gain traction with consumers “beyond breakfast” to help continue its rapid growth, Chobani marketing chief Peter McGuinness said in an interview.

Chobani previously has strayed little from the fruit-infused, single-serving portions that largely ignited the Greek yogurt craze in the U.S. about eight years ago. The new products, which Chobani plans to start selling this summer and fall, include pudding-like desserts that it hopes will compete with ice cream. It also will sell yogurt dips in savory flavors to woo fans of hummus, guacamole and Greek tzatziki. Chobani hasn’t provided details of the dips.

Chobani’s plans also coincide with the company’s exploration of options to raise capital-such as by selling a stake to a private investor or taking it public. People familiar with the situation have said such a deal could value the company around $5 billion.

Founded by Turkey-born entrepreneur Hamdi Ulukaya, Chobani upended the yogurt business in the U.S. with a product that is higher in protein, lower in sugar, and thicker and creamier than typical yogurt. The company’s revenue soared 32% last year, and it expects to beat that growth rate this year, with about $1.5 billion in sales.

Chobani’s market share has dipped slightly in the last couple years, but it still holds the top spot with about 38% of total Greek yogurt sales, according to data from market-research company Nielsen.

Write to Annie Gasparro at annie.gasparro@wsj.com

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SOURCE: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/chobani-revamps-product-line-up-mulls-ipo-2014-04-18

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Vaporin Inc – VAPO


Vaporin – The Premier Electronic Cigarette

Vaporin offers an exciting new smoking alternative for the smokers. Vaporin Electronic Cigarettes resemble traditional cigarettes in look, taste and feel. It’s easy to use, runs on a rechargeable battery and lights up automatically. Users inhale their desired amount of nicotine through the option of numerous delicious flavors. The thing that distinguishes Vaporin vs. traditional cigarettes is, each drag consists of smoke vapors, leaving no ash or butts behind.

Vaporin is always changing the electronic cigarette industry standard, and continues to be the leader the ecig branding, marketing and customer service. Vaporin is constantly growing as America’s most trusted brand of electronic cigarette for the following reasons:

  • Quality: Vaporin’s e-cigarettes are made with the highest quality
  • Branding and Marketing: Vaporin always comes up with new promotions and unique marketing approaches
  • Customer Service and Support: Vaporin’s customer service support team will always go out of their way to make sure our customers are 100% satisfied
  • Warranty: Vaporin offers a 30 day money back guarantee and also a lifetime warranty to loyal customers

Vaporin Electronic Cigarettes Offer A Plethora Of Advantages Over Traditional Cigarettes:

  • Rated as the best electronic cigarette available on the market
  • Maximizes volume of smoke vapor
  • User friendly
  • Control over the taste.
  • Free from tar
  • No ash is left behind
  • Free from Carbon Monoxide
  • No fire hazards
  • Free from offensive odors sticking to cars, walls, linen, or clothing
  • Free from smoker’s breath.
  • Cost effective as compared to traditional cigarettes.
  • Legally allowed in the areas like restaurants, bars, airports and other places where smoking is banned
  • Free from polluting cigarette butts

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Chipotle profit rises on stronger sales, traffic


Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. said first-quarter income improved 8.5% as the burrito chain continued to post strong same-store sales growth amid higher traffic.

The restaurant chain boosted its expected growth in same-store sales for the year, now predicting a rise in the high single digit range, from its prior view of a low to mid-single digit range improvement.

Shares jumped about 5% premarket after the company easily beat revenue estimates, though earnings were below market expectations.

The restaurant chain has been able to post strong earnings growth in recent quarters despite higher food costs, thanks to rising traffic and sales. The company–part of the growing “fast casual” segment in the restaurant industry that includes Potbelly Corp. and Panera Bread Co. — has been working to strip out genetically modified ingredients from its menu, recently substituting a non-GMO sunflower oil for a genetically modified soybean oil it had been using.

Chipotle said same-store sales, or sales at locations opened at least 13 months, rose 13% in the latest quarter, driven by heavier traffic.

Overall, Chipotle reported a profit of $83.1 million, or $2.64 a share, up from $76.6 million, or $2.45 a share, a year earlier. Revenue jumped 24% to $904.2 million.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters forecast a profit of $2.86 a share on revenue of $874 million.

Food, beverage and packaging costs rose 30%, and food costs accounted for 34.5% of total revenue, up from 33% a year earlier. The increase was driven by inflationary pressures in beef, avocados and cheese prices, the company said.

The company’s board also approved a $100 million increase in Chipotle’s stock buyback plan, adding to the $77 million already authorized as of March 31.

Chipotle had mulled a round of price increases at some point last summer but ended up declining to raise prices, saying food inflation had stabilized. In January, it said it would likely raise menu prices in the third quarter.

Write to Ben Fox Rubin at ben.rubin@wsj.com

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SOURCE: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/chipotle-profit-rises-on-stronger-sales-traffic-2014-04-17

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Barnes & Noble chairman Leonard Riggio cuts stake


Barnes & Noble Inc.’s chairman and largest shareholder, Leonard Riggio, again trimmed his holdings in the struggling book retailer, selling about $64 million in the stock Wednesday.

Mr. Riggio sold 3.7 million shares at $17.30 each in a privately negotiated block trade. Shares closed Wednesday at $18.60 and slid about 4% premarket.

Mr. Riggio, who remains the company’s largest shareholder with a 20% stake, said the sale was made for “long-term financial and estate planning,” adding that he has no plans to sell more stock in 2014.

The sale comes after Mr. Riggio sold about two million shares in the company in December. At the time, he said in an interview he was making the sale to offset gains from other investments for tax purposes and didn’t have “any intentions of selling more shares.”

“After this sale I remain the company’s largest shareholder, a position I feel very good about,” Mr. Riggio said in a statement on Thursday. “I love this company and I believe in its future as I do in all of the wonderful people who work here.”

Earlier this month, Liberty Media Corp. also agreed to reduce its stake in Barnes & Noble. John Malone’s media company said it would retain about 10% of its stake and Liberty Chief Executive Greg Maffei has left the company’s board.

The company’s shareholders have been hurt by the transformation of the traditional bookselling market in recent years. Barnes & Noble’s shares have plummeted in recent years, as Amazon.com Inc. has fortified its position in bookselling, including through the emergence of e-books.

Write to Ben Fox Rubin at ben.rubin@wsj.com

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SOURCE: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/barnes-noble-chairman-leonard-riggio-cuts-stake-2014-04-17

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Endurance Specialty Holdings Ltd.


Endurance Specialty Holdings Ltd. made public its $3.2 billion bid to acquire Aspen Insurance Holdings Ltd., after being rebuffed by the property and casualty insurer.

Endurance is offering stockholders $47.50 a share in cash or stock, or a combination of the two, representing a 21% premium to Friday’s close and a 15% premium to Aspen’s all-time high of $41.43 on Dec. 31.

“Despite our repeated attempts since late January to engage in confidential and friendly discussions, Aspen’s board and management have rebuffed our proposal and refused to engage with us, thereby denying Aspen’s shareholders the ability to understand and attain the clear financial, operational and strategic benefits of this transaction,” Chairman and Chief Executive John Charman said in a statement Monday.

An Aspen spokesman wasn’t immediately available to comment.

Mr. Charman said the companies’ specialized businesses, “such as Endurance’s market-leading agriculture insurance business and Aspen’s Lloyd’s operations, are highly complementary.”

Endurance expects the combined company would generate annual cost savings of more than $100 million, leading to per-share earnings growth in 2015.

Mr. Charman also plans to purchase $25 million of Endurance shares in connection with the proposed acquisition, in addition to the $30 million of personal capital he said he has already invested in the company.

The cash portion of the offer would be funded from Endurance’s cash resources and $1.05 billion of newly issued common shares to investors led by funds advised by CVC Capital Partners Advisory (U.S.) Inc.

The offer will be subject to proration to achieve a mix of 40% cash and 60% Endurance stock.

Write to Tess Stynes at tess.stynes@wsj.com

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SOURCE: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/endurance-makes-32-bln-bid-for-aspen-insurance-2014-04-14

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T-Mobile to cut out overage charges for consumers


T-Mobile US Inc. said Monday that it will be eliminating overage penalties for all customers on its T-Mobile consumer plans and pushed other major U.S. carriers to do the same.

T-Mobile, the fourth-largest U.S. carrier, has reversed a long decline in its subscriber base by doing away with carrier standbys like service contracts and international data fees.

The company noted in a statement Monday that more than 20 million U.S. consumers were hit with overage charges last year.

T-Mobile Chief Executive John Legere called on the company’s biggest competitors–AT&T Inc., Verizon Wireless and Sprint Corp.–to stop the practice. He also launched a petition on Change.org in a bid to wipe out these charges.

“Charging overage fees is a greedy, predatory practice that needs to go,” he said in a statement. Customers on its consumer plans will no longer see overage fees starting in May for bills arriving in June, he added.

T-Mobile’s low-price unlimited data option, something Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc. don’t offer, has been a key to competing with the market’s leaders.

The company, however, last month raised the price of its unlimited wireless data plan by $10 to $80 a month on the back of higher costs.

The company’s stock is down 11% so far this year.

Write to Erin McCarthy at erin.mccarthy@wsj.com

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SOURCE: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/t-mobile-to-cut-out-overage-charges-for-consumers-2014-04-14

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Worleyparsons reorganizes business to trim costs


MELBOURNE, Australia–WorleyParsons Ltd. (WOR.AU), which like other mining services companies has been stung as Australia’s long resources boom loses steam, plans to simplify its business structure in an effort to reduce overheads.

The company began an in-depth review of its business earlier this year. Like many companies providing services and equipment to the mining industry, it has already shed thousands of workers in the past year as falling commodity prices led to a global decline in resources spending.

WorleyParsons will in future focus on three business lines–services, major projects and a unit called “improve” that will be responsible for handling asset-management contracts and securing new contracts. The three lines take in the company’s work in the energy, infrastructure, minerals and chemicals sectors.

The reorganization is expected to cost about 35 million Australian dollars (US$32.7 million) in the current financial year, but WorleyParsons said it anticipates improved margins from next year. Excluding the one-off costs, the company reaffirmed guidance given in February that it was still on track for an underlying profit of between A$260 million and A$300 million for the year through June.

WorleyParson’s net profit fell 28% in the six months through December to A$112.1 million and the company cut its interim dividend to 34 cents a share from 41.5 cents a year earlier.

Write to Robb M. Stewart at robb.stewart@wsj.com

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SOURCE: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/worleyparsons-reorganizes-business-to-trim-costs-2014-04-09

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Rolls-Royce wins $100 million U.S. Defense deal


LONDON–Aircraft engine maker Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC (RR.LN) said Wednesday it has been awarded a contractor logistics support contract valued at over $100 million by the U.S. Department of Defense to provide continued support for the F405 Adour engines that power the U.S. Navy’s T-45 training aircraft.

Under the terms of the agreement, which is administered by the Naval Air Systems Command, Rolls-Royce will provide intermediate, depot level maintenance and related logistics support for more than 200 F405 engines in the U.S. Navy fleet, it said.

The follow-on, one-year contract will continue the successful support which has provided the U.S. Navy’s training fleet with guaranteed availability over the past ten years, Rolls-Royce said.

Paul Craig, Rolls-Royce President-Defense Services, said: “We have been working with the U.S. Navy’s F405 fleet for a decade and we appreciate their continued confidence in our service capabilities. We take great pride in supporting the training of new aviators for the Navy and Marine Corps.”

Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC shares closed Tuesday at GBP10.54, valuing the company at GBP19.8 billion ($33 billion).

Write to Razak Musah Baba at razak.baba@wsj.com; Twitter: @Raztweet

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SOURCE: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/rolls-royce-wins-100-million-us-defense-deal-2014-04-09

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McKesson gets weak response to Celesio tender


McKesson Corp. MCK -2.61% said its tender offer to acquire the rest of German rival Celesio AG (CLS1.XE) has received a weak response so far, as the pharmaceutical company reported its efforts to boost its majority stake in the company.

McKesson reached a deal in late January to buy the Haniel family’s holding in Germany’s Celesio at EUR23.50 a share. That, combined with buying Celesio convertible bonds from activist investor Elliott Management, gave the U.S. company the 75% needed to complete the on-again, off-again deal.

But it hasn’t made much progress in its efforts, unveiled in February, to buy the rest of the shares. McKesson said Monday it now holds just a 75.7% stake and again extended its tender offer, now to 6 p.m. EDT on April 22.

McKesson had improved its bid in January for Celesio to EUR23.50 a share from EUR23, valuing the German distributor at more than EUR6.23 billion. The proposed acquisition is expected to boost McKesson’s leverage in negotiations with generic drug manufacturers and broaden its footprint geographically.

Write to Tess Stynes at tess.stynes@wsj.com

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SOURCE: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/mckesson-gets-weak-response-to-celesio-tender-2014-04-07

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