Morning Business Memo…
Is a comeback possible for Research in Motion, (RIM) and its iconic Blackberry? The early buzz among investors is positive. RIM's share price has nearly tripled since hitting a low point in September. RIM will show off its new Blackberry 10 tomorrow in New York. An expensive marketing campaign will follow. Once the dominant smartphone, Blackberry sales collapsed as consumers opted for Android and iPhones. According to the research firm Strategy Analytics, Android and iPhone devices now account for 92 percent of all global smartphone shipments. The corporate market for Blackberry devices has collapsed. "RIM used to depend on lucrative deals with corporations and government agencies for the bulk of its business," says the Wall Street Journal. But that percentage has shrunk to as low as 20 percent.
Another struggling tech giant may be improving its position. Yahoo's fourth quarter earnings came in better than expected. Growth in its overseas markets helped end a three year slump in sales. This report was the first set of results covering a full quarter for Yahoo's new CEO Marissa Mayer. She was lured away from a top job at Google last July. Mayer has been focusing on building better mobile and social networking services so Yahoo can boost profits.
A new report criticizes the Treasury Department for approving excessive salaries and pay hikes at firms that received taxpayer-funded bailouts during the financial crisis. The Special Inspector General for TARP says Treasury approved all 18 requests it received last year to raise pay for executives at AIG, General Motors and Ally Financial. Of those requests, 14 were for $100,000 or more. One raise, for the CEO of a division at AIG, was for $1 million. The three firms received a combined nearly $250 billion from the bailout fund. Only AIG has fully repaid its $182 billion bailout. The report says Treasury approved raises that exceeded pay limits and in some cases failed to link compensation to performance.
Happy birthday ETFs. With more savers and investors now putting their money in the stock market, and the S&P 500 closing in on a record high, Exchange Traded Funds have reason to celebrate their 20th birthday. ETFs are a low-cost alternative to most actively managed mutual funds. Since their debut 20 years ago, "ETFs or exchange traded funds have opened up the market to the average investor," says David Mazza, a senior executive at State Street Global Advisors in Boston. ETFs charge far lower management fees than most other funds. "The portfolio managers are not intending to try to select securities that outperform the broader market," says Mazza. Critics of the mutual fund industry point out that most active fund managers fail to beat the returns of the S&P and other averages. There are now thousands of Exchange Traded Funds for investors to pick from. "What many ETFs do is let you gain access to the broad market in one particular trade," says Mazza.
Richard Davies Business Correspondent ABC NEWS Radio ABCNews.com twitter.com/daviesabc