Business briefs: Wal-Mart adds new weekly plan to cut prices

Wal-Mart, which has ridden low prices to dominate the U.S. retail scene, stepped up its game in price cutting still further Wednesday. The world’s largest retailer said it will cut prices this holiday season for a week at a time on thousands of items, from bananas to board games. The first group of cuts hit Wednesday. “We will not be beaten on price,” said Eduardo Castro-Wright, vice chairman of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and leader of its U.S. business. Castro-Wright was addressing analysts at a two-day meeting that began Wednesday in Rogers, Ark., a few miles from the company’s headquarters in Bentonville, Ark. John Fleming, its chief merchandising officer in the U.S., told investors that Wal-Mart’s audits show prices for frequently purchased grocery items were recently at least 14 percent lower than at leading national supermarkets.

EBay profits dip as expenses rise

EBay says its third-quarter net income fell 29 percent as operating expenses climbed. Revenue rose, though, due mainly to growth in its PayPal online payments business. That’s because more people and merchants are using PayPal to pay for things online — the number of active registered PayPal accounts rose 19 percent to 78 million. The online marketplace operator earned $350 million, or 27 cents per share. This compares with net income of $492 million, or 38 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter. Revenue rose 6 percent to $2.24 billion. Much of that is due to the 15 percent jump in its payments business.

Diner discounts not aiding chains

Fortunes at chain restaurants are tumbling, the fallout from a strategy of slashing menu prices in the hopes that a cheap meal will be enough to entice diners back to their booths. Instead, diners are ringing up smaller checks, or simply staying home. And the deep discounts, like the two meals for $20 being offered at places such as Chili’s and Applebee’s, come with a high cost for sales and profits. Some worry the chains are creating diners looking only for a cheap meal. “These companies are competing any way they can to get customers in the door,” said restaurant analyst R.J. Hottovy.

Cutbacks boost Amgen profits

Biotechnology company Amgen Inc. said Wednesday lower costs in its research and sales units pushed up third-quarter profit 24 percent, despite a continued downturn in anemia drug sales. Profit rose to $1.39 billion, or $1.36 per share, from $1.12 billion, or $1.05 per share, a year prior. Revenue fell 2 percent to $3.8 billion as sales of the anemia drug Aranesp continued slipping. Excluding charges, the company says profit rose to $1.49 per share. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters, on average, forecast $1.27 in profit on $3.79 billion in revenue. The positive results prompted a boost in full-year profit guidance to between $4.90 and $5.05 per share, up from a prior range of $4.80 to $4.95 per share.

From Herald news services