- - Sunday, January 22, 2012


Christmas gifts lead to tablet, e-reader surge

SAN FRANCISCO — Tablets and e-readers were such a popular gift over the holidays that the number of people who own them rose about 60 percent between mid-December and January, a new study finds.

A report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project set to be released Monday found that 29 percent of Americans owned at least one tablet or e-reader as of the beginning of this month. That’s up from 18 percent who said the same in December.

Apple’s iPad is perhaps the best-known example of these gadgets, along with Amazon.com’s various Kindle devices and the Nook from Barnes & Noble. The iPad put tablets on the map and the cheaper Kindle Fire and Nook devices helped get them in the hands of more people.

The percentage of people who own a tablet jumped to 19 percent from 10 percent between mid-December and early January. E-book reader ownership also rose to 19 percent from 10 percent of U.S. adults.


Volkswagen soon likely to finish Porsche takeover

BERLIN — Europe’s biggest automaker, Volkswagen, will likely this year complete its takeover of luxury-car group Porsche after clearing key hurdles, according to a German media report Sunday.

Der Spiegel, a weekly newsmagazine, reported, citing unnamed VW executives, that VW, which owns 49.9 percent of Porsche, may buy the 50.1-percent stake in the manufacturer of the iconic 911 car for 3.9 billion euros ($5 billion) in 2012.

Porsche has built up massive debts, and Der Spiegel said two previous obstacles now look surmountable.

Volkswagen will avoid having to pay more than 1 billion euros (about $1.29 billion) in taxes for completing the deal before 2014 by creating a holding company to buy and maintain the stake in Porsche, according to the report. VW would also meet Porsche’s demands for independence by signing a contract giving the maker of sports cars control over its investments and models, Der Spiegel said.


Fed details how it will forecast rate changes

The Federal Reserve has specified how it will begin signaling when its benchmark interest rate will rise and what the rate will be at points in the future.

Four times a year starting Wednesday, the Fed will show in a chart the year when Fed officials predict they will begin raising the rate. Another chart will show individual Fed members’ predictions for the rate at the end of 2012, 2013 and 2014.

More guidance on rates might help lower long-term yields further, in effect providing a kind of stimulus. Lower rates could lead consumers and businesses to borrow and spend more. The economy would likely benefit.

The Fed has left its key short-term rate at a record low near zero for the past three years. In August, it said it planned to leave the rate there until at least mid-2013, unless the economy improved. Many private economists think the rate is likely to remain near zero for longer even than that.


BlackBerry company losing founders/CEOs

The founders and co-CEOs of Canadian telecommunications company Research in Motion, Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis, announced Sunday that they were leaving their posts.

“In every successful company that’s developed by founders,” Mr. Lazaridis said in a statement, “there comes a time when it enters a new phase of growth, and it’s time for the founders to pass the baton to new management.”

According to the Canadian Press, the company best known for its BlackBerry smartphone now will be led by Thorsten Heins, a chief operating officer who joined RIM four years ago from Siemens AG.

RIM had a bad 2011, losing tens of billions of dollars in market value as it suffered the worst service outage in its history and saw poor sales for its PlayBook tablet.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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