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Business news briefs — Feb. 27

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AUTO INDUSTRY

NHTSA studies GM

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has launched a probe into why General Motors Co. did not promptly recall more than 1.6 million vehicles after it learned that faulty ignition switches were causing fatal crashes. The investigation is likely to result in hefty fines for the automaker. GM recalled the vehicles in two phases this month even though documents filed with the federal safety agency date back to 2004.

ENERGY

Shale growth seen

Oil companies plan a big increase in drilling activity in 2014 in a shale formation in southwest Mississippi and Louisiana. They’re trying to extract oil from the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale, which one study says could hold 7 billion barrels.

Some wells have been disappointing. But Goodrich Petroleum and Encana Corp. say they expect to produce oil more consistently as they learn effective drilling techniques. Goodrich Chief Operating Officer Robert Turnham says companies still must cut costs to be successful.

Louisiana and Mississippi are trying to spur activity through tax breaks. Leaders hope drilling will boost the rural region’s economy.

FAST FOOD

McDonald’s expands test

McDonald’s plans to expand a test this year that lets people order customized burgers. The world’s biggest hamburger chain began testing personalized orders last year with a “build-your-own burger” concept at a location in California. In addition to its traditional menu, the restaurant in Laguna Niguel offers tablets on which people can tap out the bun, patty, cheese and toppings.

EARNINGS

Best Buy has profit

Best Buy Co. posted fourth-quarter profit that topped analysts’ estimates after cutting expenses and getting more of its sales from the Internet. Profit was $293 million, or 83 cents a share, in the quarter ended Feb. 1, compared with a loss of $409 million, or $1.21, a year earlier, the company said. Earnings from continuing operations were $1.24 a share. Analysts had projected $1.01 a share, the average of 24 estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Chief Executive Officer Hubert Joly is working to cut $1 billion in annual costs.

Sears sees loss

Sears Holdings Corp., the retailer run by hedge fund manager Edward Lampert, posted a $358 million fourth-quarter loss as investments in online operations and a rewards program failed to boost holiday sales. The net loss in the quarter narrowed to $3.37 a share from $489 million, or $4.61 a share, a year earlier, the company said. Revenue fell 14 percent to $10.6 billion.

YRC financials improve

Shares in struggling YRC Worldwide Inc. surged nearly 15 percent on Thursday after the Overland Park, Kan., trucking company reported improving financials.

YRC reported net income of $400,000 on revenue of $1.2 billion for the fourth quarter ending Dec. 31, compared to a loss of $35.3 million on revenue of $1.17 billion a year ago.

For the full year, YRC said it lost $83.6 million, or $8.96 per share, on revenue of nearly $4.9 billion compared to a loss of $136.5 million, or $19.20 per share, on revenue of $4.85 billion for fiscal 2012.

Shares rose $3.37, or 14.9 percent, to $26 on Thursday.

Compiled from staff and wire reports


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