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Business news briefs — April 11

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Foreign investment proposed

Columbus is one of six metropolitan areas taking part in a pilot project to boost foreign investment.

Officials from the group called Columbus 2020, the region’s economic-development arm, met in Seattle for the first session on the initiative with representatives from Seattle; Minneapolis; Portland, Ore.; San Diego and San Antonio.

The effort is part of the Global Cities Initiative, a joint project of the Brookings Institution and JPMorgan Chase & Co., that Columbus has been involved with since its launch in 2011. Chase, Columbus’ largest private employer, has donated $10 million toward the effort.

RETAIL

Walmart to sell organics

Walmart is using its corporate size to drive down the price of organic food items from tomato paste to chicken broth to make it more affordable.

The retailer said it has teamed up with Wild Oats to sell a new line of organic foods, starting this month, that’s at least 25 percent cheaper than the national organic brands it carries and in line with the prices of its branded non-organic alternatives. Wild Oats helped pioneer the organic food trend in the late 1980s but has largely disappeared from store shelves since 2007.

Nestle chief executive ill

Nestle SA, with frozen food operations in Solon, said Chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, 69, has been diagnosed with a curable illness that will require periodic medical treatment over the next six months.

“This does not affect Mr. Brabeck-Letmathe’s ability to carry out his role as chairman of the board of directors and he will continue to fully exercise his duties during the treatment,” the company said without giving any further details.

“From an investor point of view, we’re not overly concerned for now as it does not appear to be a very serious illness,” said Jon Cox, head of Swiss equities at Kepler Cheuvreux in Zurich. “I don’t think this will lead to him stepping down.”

ELECTRONICS

Sony recalls laptop computers

Sony is recalling some of its VAIO laptop computers, saying that it’s possible that non-removable battery pack could overheat. The packs included in some of Sony’s Vaio Fit 11A models, which were released in February, were provided by a third-party supplier. If the packs overheat, it could cause burns to the laptop’s housing.

The recall affects computers with the product name “SVF11N1XXXX.” It’s unclear how many laptops are affected. Consumers are advised to immediately stop using the computers, shut them down and unplug them. Sony said it’s in the process of creating a program to repair or replace the computers, or refund their purchase price. It plans to make an announcement within two weeks.

FOOD

Subway cuts bread chemical

Subway says an ingredient dubbed the “yoga mat” chemical will be entirely phased out of its bread by next week. The disclosure comes as Subway has suffered bad publicity since a food blogger petitioned the chain to remove the ingredient.

The ingredient, azodicarbonamide, is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use as a bleaching agent and dough conditioner. It can be found in products served at McDonald’s and Starbucks and breads sold in supermarkets. But the petition gained attention after it noted the chemical was also used to make yoga mats.

Tony Pace, Subway’s chief marketing officer, said the chain started phasing out the ingredient late last year and the process should be complete within a week. Subway is privately held and doesn’t disclose sales figures. “You see the social media traffic, and people are happy that we’re taking it out, but they want to know when we’re taking it out,” Pace said. “If there are people who have that hesitation, that hesitation is going to be removed.”

TiVo battles cable proposal

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association trade group is lobbying for legislation that video recording machine maker TiVo says could threaten its reign as the cult favorite for fast forwarding past commercials. For 16 years, cable providers have had to provide the same anti-signal theft technology used by independent device makers. TiVo says the change would make it impossible for its users to view some programs. Cable won a preliminary vote in the U.S. House last month.

“You cannot sell a consumer a retail device that doesn’t get all the cable channels, no matter how good the device is,” said Matthew Zinn, general counsel of TiVo.

Compiled from staff and wire reports


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