- - Sunday, January 1, 2012


Ford’s sales zoom back to 2007 level

DETROIT — Ford Motor Co. said Friday that its U.S. sales last week topped 2 million vehicles for the first time in four years, boosted by strong demand for smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Ford is the first automotive brand to hit the 2 million mark since 2007, making it the best-selling brand in America, the automaker said.

“Ford’s lineup of high-quality, fuel-efficient cars, utilities [sport utility vehicles] and trucks continues to attract more and more new customers,” Ford’s sales analysis manager Erich Merkle said in a statement.

Overall, Ford brand small cars were on track for a more than 20 percent gain in sales for 2011, while utility vehicles are heading for an increase of more than 30 percent, the number-two US automaker said.


LG to sell 55-inch TV using ultrathin technology

NEW YORK — For flat-panel TVs, the choice for years has been between plasma and LCD. This year, there’ll be another choice, at least for those prepared to spend big.

LG Electronics says it is planning to sell a 55-inch set based on organic light-emitting diodes, or OLEDs. The Korean company is set to show it off at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which starts Jan. 10.

LG says the set likely will go on sale in the fourth quarter. It didn’t revealing a price, but an analyst at DisplaySearch estimates such sets will start out above $5,000.

Apart from providing improved picture quality, OLED TVs can be very thin. LG’s set will be 4 millimeters thick (3/16ths of an inch) and weigh 16.5 pounds.


Exxon Mobil awarded $908 million in compensation

CARACAS — An international arbitration body has awarded Exxon Mobil Corp. nearly $908 million in a dispute with Venezuela over compensation for the nationalization of its assets, the company said Sunday.

Exxon Mobil sought arbitration after President Hugo Chavez’s government nationalized an oil project in the country in 2007.

The decision by the International Chamber of Commerce confirmed that state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA “does have a contractual liability to Exxon Mobil,” company spokesman Patrick McGinn said in an email. He said the award is for $907,588,000.

Venezuelan government officials did not respond to messages Sunday seeking comment.

“The dispute is not over Venezuela’s power to expropriate assets, but rather the failure of PDVSA to comply with contractual provisions to compensate Exxon Mobil,” Mr. McGinn said.

The Irving, Texas-based oil company has not publicly released figures on how much it was seeking in compensation. Mr. McGinn said the company received the decision Friday and was still reviewing its more than 400 pages.

Exxon Mobil still has another arbitration case pending against Venezuela before the World Bank-affiliated International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes. More than a dozen other arbitration cases involving Venezuela are also pending as companies have sought billions of dollars in compensation in response to nationalizations by Chavez’s leftist government.

The Caracas-based consulting firm Ecoanalitica estimated recently, before the latest Exxon Mobil decision, that the bulk of the government’s nationalizations involved more than $33.7 billion in assets, including about $23 billion in outstanding obligations.


Head of Bank Leumi chooses to step down

JERUSALEM — The head of Israel’s largest bank has announced she is retiring.

Galia Maor has been the CEO of Bank Leumi for more than 16 years. Under her management, the bank emerged from the 2008 financial crisis almost unscathed. It also reclaimed the title of Israel’s largest bank in terms of assets, surpassing Bank Hapoalim.

Forbes magazine has recognized her performance in past years by placing her on its list of the world’s 100 most powerful women.

Ms. Maor, 68, told the bank’s board of directors Sunday that she planned to retire during the second quarter of 2012. In her announcement, Ms. Maor said that after finalizing the bank’s multiyear plan she was ready to retire.


Credit crunch prompts Petroplus to shut refineries

GENEVA — Petroplus Holdings says it will temporarily halt production at three refineries in France, Belgium and Switzerland while it continues talks to unfreeze a $1 billion credit facility.

Europe’s largest independent oil refiner and wholesaler has struggled to convince lenders to grant it the credit necessary to continue its operations.

The Swiss-based company says talks will continue in the coming days but, in the meantime, it will suspend work at the Petit Couronne, Antwerp and Cressier plants during January.

Petroplus said Friday that “the restart of the refineries is dependent on economic conditions and credit availability.”

The company, which also has refineries at Ingolstadt in Germany and Coryton in England, normally produces 667,000 barrels per day.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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