Business briefs: Northrop pass won’t prevent tanker contest

The Air Force will go forward with its aerial refueling tanker contest even if the Boeing Co. is the sole bidder, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told members of Congress on Wednesday. Northrop Grumman, the other defense contractor considering placing a bid, has said it may drop out of the competition unless significant changes are made to the Air Force’s contest. The Air Force is expected to release this month its final requirements for replacing its Eisenhower-era KC-135 tankers. Regardless of Northrop’s decision, Gates told Congress, “we have to have new tankers.”

Wal-Mart to cut 300 administrators

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is cutting 300 administrative jobs at its headquarters as it completes a yearlong series of changes to improve performance. The company has cut almost 14,000 jobs in the past 13 months. Wal-Mart President and Chief Executive Mike Duke told employees about the latest layoffs in a memo Wednesday. “With this last major strategic piece in place, we are beginning our new fiscal year with every part of our business focused on being even more responsive to our customers,” Duke wrote. He said the world’s largest retailer trimmed its labor force to improve its “growth, leverage and returns.”

Questions raised over Prius brakes

Americans should park their recalled Toyotas unless driving to dealers for accelerator repairs, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood warned Wednesday — then quickly took it back — as skepticism of company fixes grew and the government’s probe expanded to other models in the U.S. and Japan. Questions now are being raised about the brakes on Toyota’s marquee Prius hybrid. The Prius was not part of the most recent recall, but Japan’s transport ministry ordered the company to investigate complaints of brake problems with the hybrid. LaHood said his department, too, was looking into brake problems. About 100 complaints over Prius brakes have been filed in the U.S. and Japan.

Visa Inc. earnings rise 33 percent

Visa Inc. on Wednesday said its profit rose 33 percent in the fiscal first-quarter on increased revenue, even as consumers pull back sharply on spending amid the recession. The payment processing giant reported net income of $763 million, or $1.02 per share, compared with $574 million, or 74 cents per share a year ago. Revenue growth was strong in all segments, climbing 13 percent to $1.96 billion from $1.74 billion a year ago, driven by strong growth in all revenue categories, particularly data processing revenues and international transaction revenues. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected 91 cents per share on revenue of $1.92 billion, on average. Visa, operator of the world’s largest retail electronic payments network, went public in March in the biggest U.S. IPO ever.

From Herald staff and news services