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Business news briefs — Feb. 21

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AUTOS

UAW challenges VW vote

The United Auto Workers on Friday challenged last week’s close vote by workers at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., that rejected the UAW’s bid to represent them.

In an appeal filed with the National Labor Relations Board, the union asserted that “interference by politicians and outside special interest groups” had swayed the election.

In particular, the appeal took aim at Sen. Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican and former Chattanooga mayor, who suggested that a “no” vote would lead a Volkswagen expansion in the state.

The UAW bid was defeated in a 712-626 vote, even though the German company generally is considered labor-friendly.

“It’s an outrage that politically motivated third parties threatened the economic future of this facility and the opportunity for workers to create a successful operating model that would grow jobs in Tennessee,” UAW President Bob King said.

The union had faced a midnight Friday deadline for filing the action with the NLRB. The rejection by Volkswagen workers dealt a harsh setback to the union, especially since Volkswagen did not oppose the unionization drive.

ACQUISITIONS

Bookseller offer sweetened

Barnes & Noble Inc., the struggling bookseller, received a proposal from G Asset Management LLC to acquire 51 percent of the company at $22 a share, valuing the total business at $1.32 billion.

G Asset also proposed buying 51 percent of Barnes & Noble’s Nook e-book division at $5 a share as an alternative deal, according to a statement Friday from the firm. It said it was confident that separating the business would unlock “substantial” shareholder value.

The move represents an increased bid over G Asset’s $20-a-share offer in November, also for 51 percent of the business. The investment firm has been pushing Barnes & Noble to spin off its Nook division since at least 2011.

SPONSORSHIPS

Athletic gear deal renewed

Athletic gear maker Under Armour has signed an eight-year deal with U.S. Speedskating to provide uniforms despite controversy over the suit it provided the team at the Sochi Olympics.

Under Armour spent years developing a new speedskating suit that debuted during the Olympics but flopped. U.S. speedskaters, including favorite Shani Davis, didn’t medal, and some blamed the suit. The team reverted to an older Under Armour suit, but results have not yet improved.

Under Armour said Friday it is ready to try again. The Baltimore company will outfit the U.S. speedskating team for the next two Winter Olympics, beginning with South Korea in 2018.

Company CEO and founder Kevin Plank told CNBC that Under Armour was “doubling down” and hoped to move past the Sochi controversy.

Financial terms were undisclosed. In the interview, Plank said the current contract expires in a month, so the timing was right for a new deal.

BANKING

FirstMerit reveals dividend

The Board of Directors of FirstMerit Corp. on Friday announced a dividend of $14.69 per share on the company’s 5.875 percent non-cumulative perpetual preferred stock, Series A.

It will be payable May 5 to shareholders of record April 18.

Fed slow to grasp crisis

The Federal Reserve agonized in 2008 over how far to go to stop a financial crisis that threatened to cause a recession and at times struggled to recognize its speed and magnitude.

The Fed on Friday released hundreds of pages of transcripts covering its meetings during 2008 — the most tumultuous period of the crisis. This includes the government takeover of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the fateful decision to let investment bank Lehman Brothers collapse and the bailout of insurer American International Group.

For all its aggressive steps in 2008, the transcripts show the Fed failing at times to grasp the size of the catastrophe. Ben Bernanke and his top lieutenants often expressed puzzlement that they weren’t managing to calm panicky investors.

Compiled from staff, wire reports


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