April 12, 2014

SC business notebook, April 12

Wells Fargo profits surge; ‘Yoga mat’ chemical out at Subway; Ford F-150s won’t be recalled for power issue; Walmarts to offer Wild Oats organic products

Wells Fargo profits surge

First-quarter profit for Wells Fargo & Co., the biggest U.S. mortgage lender, surged 14 percent in the latest quarter as the bank continued to trim its losses on soured loans. Net income after dividends on preferred stock rose to $5.6 billion in the January-March period from $4.9 billion a year earlier, the bank reported early Friday. On a per-share basis, earnings were $1.05, well above the 97 cents forecast by Wall Street analysts. Revenue in the first quarter fell to $20.6 billion from $21.3 billion a year earlier, in line with analysts’ estimates. The San Francisco-based bank’s stock closed up 37 cents, or 0.78 percent, to $48.08.

‘Yoga mat’ chemical out at Subway

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 from an onslaught of 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 a wide variety products, including those 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.

Ford F-150s won’t be recalled for power issue

U.S. safety regulators have decided against seeking a recall of Ford F-150 pickup trucks after investigating complaints about reduced power in EcoBoost engines. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says it closed a probe started in May. It covered nearly 360,000 trucks with 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged engines from the 2011 through 2013 model years. The agency began investigating after getting complaints that the trucks could lose some of their power during hard acceleration. Tests by Ford and the government traced the problem to condensation in an air cooler. Water could be pulled into the engine, causing cylinders to misfire. But the tests showed that trucks with the condition would maintain speed and accelerate. The agency determined that a Ford Motor Co. service bulletin to dealers took care of the problem, so it’s not pursuing a recall.

Walmarts to offer Wild Oats organic products

Low prices and organic food. They usually don’t go together, but Walmart wants to change that. The giant retailer, in a move to grab even more grocery dollars, announced Thursday it will carry Wild Oats organic products at half of its stores nationwide. Walmart will introduce about 100 Wild Oats items, most of them pantry products ranging from olive oil to chicken broth. The chain will offer them at 2,000 stores initially, then expand to all 4,000 locations. Walmart says the products will save shoppers 25 percent or more when compared with national brand organic items. A 6-ounce jar of Wild Oats tomato paste, for example, will sell for 58 cents, versus 98 cents for a national brand. Cinnamon applesauce cups will sell for $1.98 versus $2.78 elsewhere.

The Associated Press and Tampa Bay Times contributed.

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