HARRODS NOT FOR SALE: Mohamed Al Fayed has asked The Guardian newspaper in London to apologize for printing a story saying that Philip Green, England’s mass market retail king, had made an offer to buy Harrods. Al Fayed denied that Green had made an offer for the store, and that the only business discussion between the two men has been to discuss the sale of Harrods branded goods. “Al Fayed has no intention of selling Harrods,” said the store in a statement Thursday. Green has also denied the two parties are in talks. The rumor swept through the British press on Thursday. It was also the second time in a week that Al Fayed made headlines — as reported in these columns Tuesday, Harrods was given the go-ahead by the High Court in London to proceed with a libel action against Dow Jones for an article published in The Wall Street Journal related to an April Fool’s joke.

WAL-MART SUB SALE OK: The Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday gave Swift Transportation Co. antitrust clearance for its proposed acquisition of Merit Distribution Services, a division of Wal-Mart’s soon-to-be-sold McLane Co. subsidiary. As reported, Wal-Mart has signed an agreement to sell McLane and the Merit sub to Berkshire Hathaway Inc. for total consideration of about $1.5 billion. Merit is a long-haul trucking company that delivers goods to Wal-Mart’s grocery distribution centers and retail outlets throughout the U.S. Swift is among the largest publicly held U.S. trucking companies, and will purchase Merit for about $50 million.

CHILE ON THE MENU: The U.S. and Chile will finally sign a free-trade pact on June 6 in Miami, according to the U.S. Trade Representative’s office. The negotiations were completed last December, but the U.S. delayed signing the agreement when Chile failed to offer the support the U.S. needed in the United Nations for a war with Iraq, according to experts. Once the trade agreement is signed, it must be ratified by both the U.S. and Chilean legislatures.

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