- - Thursday, April 19, 2012

CALIFORNIA

TORRANCE, Calif. | Lawyers for American Honda Motor company are trying to overturn a highly publicized small-claims court award to a woman who sued over the poor fuel mileage of her hybrid Honda Civic.

The appeal is being heard Thursday by a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge who will decide whether to reverse a court commissioner’s award of $9,867 to Heather Peters.

She opted out of a class-action settlement designed to give some 200,000 owners between $100 and $200 each plus a rebate if they buy a new Honda.

A Honda service manager has testified she achieved up to 55 mpg in a 115-mile test drive on freeways and streets.

Ms. Peters called a former Honda analyst who says he tested hybrids after customer complaints and was never able to duplicate the promised 50 mpg.

NEW YORK

Starbucks plans to stop using ‘crushed bug’ dye

NEW YORK — Starbucks Corp. says it will stop using a red dye in its drinks that is derived from crushed bugs.

The Seattle-based coffee chain said in a blog post on its website that it made the decision to reformulate its drinks after feedback from consumers prompted a “thorough” evaluation.

The company says it will swap out cochineal extract, which is made from the juice of a tiny beetle, and instead use lycopene, a tomato-based extract.

Cochineal dye is widely used in foods and cosmetics products such as lipstick, yogurt and shampoo. Starbucks had used the coloring in its strawberry flavored mixed drinks and foods like the raspberry swirl cake and red velvet whoopie pie.

The company says the items will be reformulated by the end of June.

NEW YORK

Sprint-Nextel sued for $100M in sales taxes

ALBANY — New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sued Sprint-Nextel Corp. on Thursday, claiming it deliberately under-collected and underpaid $100 million in sales taxes to keep its competitive prices down.

The lawsuit in state Supreme Court was the first filed under a state law allowing the government to sue over tax losses from fraud. It could require the company to pay triple the amount it is accused of underpaying.

“We’re seeking to ensure that Sprint, not its customers, is liable for all back taxes,” Mr. Schneiderman said. His attorneys will also try to ensure in court that any affected customers can switch to other phone companies without paying early contract termination fees, which usually exceed $200.

Sprint said it collected taxes and paid “every penny” it believes its customers owe. “This complaint is without merit and Sprint categorically denies the complaint’s allegations,” spokesman John Taylor said.

MISSOURI

Coal miner Peabody 1st quarter earnings slip

ST. LOUIS — Coal miner Peabody Energy Corp. says its profit slipped in the first three months of this year despite a 48-percent jump in revenues from its key Australian operations.

The world’s biggest private-sector coal company says its net income attributable to common shareholders was $172.7 million, or 63 cents per share, down from $176.5 million, or 65 cents, a year earlier.

St. Louis-based Peabody’s revenue rose 17 percent to $2.04 billion from $1.74 billion last year.

On average, analysts polled by FactSet expected Peabody to earn 55 cents per share on revenue of $2.08 billion.

Peabody forecast second-quarter adjusted diluted earnings at 40 to 65 cents per share, reflecting lower pricing for coal used in steelmaking and electricity generation.

Peabody shares rose 59 cents, or 2.1 percent, in premarket trading.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports