c.2013 New York Times News Service

c.2013 New York Times News Service

VERIZON NEARS DEAL TO BUY OUT VODAFONEíS STAKE IN WIRELESS UNIT

Verizon Communications neared a long-anticipated deal on Sunday to buy the 45 percent stake in its wireless business held by Vodafone of Britain for about $130 billion, heralding a continued sweeping realignment within the global telecommunications landscape. Though a deal may have little effect on Verizon Wirelessís nearly 100 million subscribers at first, it would ripple through the telecommunications industry and Wall Street, with both having closely watched the back-and-forth of the negotiations for months. The companies were expected to announce the deal Monday, barring last-minute hiccups, according to people briefed on the matter.

SUPERFICIAL VISITS AND TRICKERY UNDERMINE FOREIGN FACTORY INSPECTIONS

As Western companies overwhelmingly turn to low-wage countries to produce cheap apparel, electronics and other goods, factory inspections have become a vital link in the supply chain of overseas production. An extensive examination by The New York Times reveals how the inspection system intended to protect workers and ensure manufacturing quality is riddled with flaws. The inspections are often so superficial that they omit the most fundamental workplace safeguards like fire escapes. And even when inspectors are tough, factory managers find ways to trick them and hide serious violations, like child labor or locked exit doors.

TOURISTS WARY OF TURMOIL IN THE MIDDLE EAST ARE A BOON TO SOUTHERN EUROPE

Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece are hoping that this yearís record influx of sun-seeking tourists and their money from Northern Europe will continue past summerís end. Call it an alternative financial bailout. As Europeís peak holiday season draws to a close, Spain and the other countries of Southern Europe hit hardest by the euro debt crisis are reaping the benefits of increased tourism. In Spain, tourists spent 32 billion euros, about $42 billion, in the first seven months of the year, up 6 percent from 2012 (including spending on transportation), according to data released last Tuesday by Spainís tourism ministry.

AUTOMAKERS BUILD SHOWROOM IN AN APP

Automakers trying to reach young buyers face a conundrum: How do they sell a car to people who stay away from a showroom? In response, automakers like Cadillac and Toyota are starting to embrace technology that tries to take the showroom to the buyer. Known as augmented reality, it embeds images and videos in a picture on the userís smartphone or tablet. Specular Theory, based in Venice Beach, Calif. is using Hollywood production techniques to create renderings that allow users to open the doors of a car that isnít really there, peer inside and walk around, or take a test drive, merely by running their fingers over a phone or tablet screen.

LOST IN THE SUMMER CROWDS

In Hollywood, summer ticket sales are being summed up with a single word: blockbuster. Ticket revenue in North America for the period between the first weekend in May and Labor Day totaled $4.71 billion, a 10.2 percent increase over the same period last year, according to analyst projections. But behind that rosy picture lurk some darker realities. Ticket sales rose in part because Hollywood crammed an unusually large number of big-budget movies into the summer, a period that typically accounts for 40 percent of box office revenue.

JAPANíS E-READER INDUSTRY STRUGGLES TO KEEP UP WITH AMAZON

Rakuten, Japanís leading e-commerce company, introduced its Kobo e-reader in Japan in July 2012. But four months later, Amazon.com brought its Kindle e-reader to Japan. It quickly became Japanís top-selling e-reader, gaining 38.3 percent of the market, according to the MM Research Institute, a data firm in Tokyo. Even though Rakutenís Kobo had beaten Kindle to market by nearly five months, it grabbed only 33 percent of Japanís e-reader sales during the same 12-month period. Amazonís victory began with aggressive pricing.