Business Highlights

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO


Starwood takes improved bid from Anbang

NEW YORK (AP) — Starwood called off a $12.2 billion buyout agreement with Marriott in favor of an offer from a group of investors led by the Chinese insurance company Anbang.

The decision came after Anbang upped its offer for Starwood by nearly $370 million Friday, bringing the total to more than $14 billion. Starwood, which owns the Sheraton and Westin hotel brands, has to pay Marriott $400 million to end the deal.

Chinese companies have parked a lot of money in U.S. assets in recent years, seeing it as a safe bet.


Market finishes 5th week of gains, turning S&P 500 positive

NEW YORK (AP) — Another strong gain for stocks Friday extended the market's recovery from a dismal start to the year to a fifth week in a row.

The Standard and Poor's 500 index closed up for the year for the first time. The Dow Jones industrial average turned positive Thursday. Both had been down more than 10 percent for the year a little more than a month ago.

Stocks had plunged early this year as investors feared that Chinese economy. But over the course of the five-week rally, reports on hiring, manufacturing and construction spending showed the U.S. economy is doing fairly well.


General Mills to label products with GMOs ahead of Vermont law

NEW YORK (AP) — General Mills said Friday it will start labeling products across the country that contain genetically modified ingredients to comply with a law set to go into effect in Vermont.

The maker of Cheerios and Yoplait said it is impractical to label its products for just one state. And with no deal yet for national legislation on GMO labeling, the company said it decided to add the disclosures required by Vermont to products throughout the U.S.

The move comes as federal legislation regarding the labeling of genetically modified organisms has stalled in Congress. The food industry has pushed to make the labeling voluntary.


L.L. Bean reports flat sales in tough year for retailers

FREEPORT, Maine (AP) — Outdoors specialty retailer L.L. Bean on Friday reported flat sales in 2015, which was a tough year for the retail industry, officials said Friday.

Revenue hit $1.6 billion for the company's fiscal year that ended Feb. 28, CEO Steve Smith told workers in a memo. The disappointing news that the company missed its growth goals came after five consecutive years of sales growth. Smith said the company "performed well given a challenging retail environment."

Warm weather in the critical fourth quarter was particularly tough on apparel retailers, and many of them resorted to steep discounts on winter clothing.


Court acquits ex-Porsche executives over VW bid

BERLIN (AP) — A German court acquitted Friday former Porsche CEO Wendelin Wiedeking and his ex-finance chief of charges of market manipulation connected to the sports car maker's failed attempt to buy Volkswagen.

Prosecutors had accused Wiedeking and his chief financial officer, Holger Haerter, of making misleading statements about the company's intentions before it moved in 2008 to build up its stake in much larger Volkswagen AG. The takeover attempt continued until May 2009.

Both men had rejected the charges. Prosecutors had sought prison sentences of 2 ½ years for Wiedeking and 2 years and 3 months for Haerter.


FIFA inks World Cup deal with Chinese sponsor linked to Blatter

ZURICH (AP) — FIFA signed its first World Cup sponsor in more than two scandal-hit years on Friday, agreeing to a four-tournament deal with a Chinese conglomerate that has links to Sepp Blatter.

FIFA said the deal with property and cinema giant Wanda Group runs through the 2030 World Cup — the next time that China could host the tournament. The value of the top-tier partnership was not disclosed but is likely to top hundreds of millions of dollars.

The firm's Wanda Sports Holding subsidiary is led by Blatter's nephew, Philippe Blatter. Sepp Blatter was forced out as FIFA president by a corruption crisis.


For virtual reality creators, motion sickness a real issue

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — If the controls and movement in a traditional video game aren't natural, it's merely annoying to players. For designers of virtual reality experiences, the same mistake could make users sick.

With the release of a trio of high-definition headsets on the horizon, many VR aficionados in attendance at this week's Game Developers Conference in San Francisco are confronting that issue head on.

The low-latency headsets from Oculus, HTC and Sony are intended to right the nausea-inducing wrongs of their VR predecessors from 20 years ago, but many users still report feeling woozy after using souped-up systems, such as the Oculus Rift.


Bangladesh Bank heist shows weak spots in finance safeguards

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The laundering through the Philippines of $81 million stolen by hackers from a U.S. Federal Reserve account is adding to pressures on the Southeast Asian country to fix loopholes in its financial regime.

It also highlights a potential pitfall in global anti-money laundering efforts, which in the case of the Philippines has focused more on vanquishing terrorist financing than on preventing misuse of the financial system by banks and casinos.

The disclosure of the theft from an account of the Bangladesh central bank at the New York Fed, has given such issues fresh traction.


Paris gets sausages and steaks 24/7 from vending machine

PARIS (AP) — Parisian's beloved baguette is already available 24 hours a day, and now residents can access their first meat vending machine.

The gleaming red machine set up on the lively Rue de Charonne in eastern Paris seems a bit incongruous. But that didn't stop the owners of one nearby shop from setting up their project, selling vacuum-packed meat from the refrigerated machine. It caters to customers who want to shop when the store is closed, as most shops are closed on Sunday in France.

While baguette dispensers have enjoyed success across France over the past five years, the meat vending machines business remains in in early stages.


Panasonic grappling with criticism to LGBT policy shift

TOKYO (AP) — Panasonic, the first major Japanese company to start recognizing same-sex partnerships in its ranks, has gotten mixed responses to its new policy.

A human resources manager at Panasonic acknowledged Friday that the company's decision has gotten some harshly negative responses. Tetsuya Senmatsu told reporters the decision has won both praise and criticism, depending on the country.

The policy, which kicks off on April 1, recognizes same sex partnerships as the equivalent of marriage in Japan, where Panasonic Corp. is headquartered. Details of how the policy will be applied in each nation are still under consideration.


The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 120.81 points, or 0.7 percent, to 17,602.30. The S&P 500 rose 8.99 points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,049.58. The Nasdaq composite added 20.66 points, or 0.4 percent, to 4,795.65.

Benchmark U.S. crude lost 76 cents, or 1.9 percent, to $39.44 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the benchmark for international oils, gave up 34 cents to $41.20 a barrel in London. In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline fell 1 cent to $1.43 a gallon. Heating oil lost 2 cents to $1.24 a gallon. Natural gas gave up 3 cents to $1.91 per 1,000 cubic feet.