Apple Sets Retail Sights on China

Reports from Apple Inc.'s annual shareholder meeting in Cupertino, Calif., on Thursday noted some retail expansion news from the leading gadget-creator of our time. Namely, the company plans to open 25 stores in China over the next two years; apparently Steve Jobs himself mentioned the plans.

February 26, 2010
By Dees Stribling, Contributing Editor

Courtesy Flickr Creative Commons user plasticpeople

Reports from Apple Inc.’s annual shareholder meeting in Cupertino, Calif., on Thursday noted some retail expansion news from the leading gadget-creator of our time. Namely, the company plans to open 25 stores in China over the next two years; apparently Steve Jobs himself mentioned the plans.

Apple opened its first store in China in Beijing around the time of the 2008 Summer Olympics, and a second store opened late last year in the Chinese capital. Worldwide, the company has more than 280 stores in 10 countries.

All together, Apple’s retail outlets are holding their own. In fiscal 1Q10 (ended December 26), each of the company’s stores generated an average of $7.1 million in revenue, compared with $7 million during the same quarter a year earlier. This year, Apple plans to open as many as 50 new stores, about half of which will be outside the United States.

One of those new stores will be aboard the Celebrity Cruise Line ship Celebrity Eclipse, which will ply European and Caribbean waters beginning this spring. “While enjoying a relaxing Europe or Caribbean bound cruise, guests can sharpen their Mac skills,” said the cruise line in an evidently serious statement.

Scorecard Needed to Keep Up With GGP Contest

The contest for bankrupt General Growth Properties is apparently a three-way scrummage now, with Simon Property Group, Brookfield Asset Management Inc. and Sydney-based Westfield Group all struggling for the prize. Four, if you count Blackstone, which is lurking in the wings as an equity partner, probably for Simon’s bid.

Or even more, if you count sometimes-mentioned potential suitors such as Vornado Realty Trust or Unibail-Rodamco. Rugby is beginning to look simple compared to the struggle for the Chicago-based REIT’s 200 or so malls.

Investors seem to think some value will come from a bidding war, if indeed it comes to that. In the last two weeks, GGP shares have shot up about 44 percent to about $13 a share in over-the-counter trading.

Next week, the company will ask the bankruptcy court for additional time to work out its exit strategy. Judge Allan Gropper, in turn, has to consider the competing interests of GGP’s shareholders, creditors and other parties in making a decision about how the company should proceed.

HAMP to Be Mandatory?

Perhaps irked that the banking industry has taken so little interest in the Home Affordable Modification Program, the White House is reportedly mulling a plan to require all mortgages to be screened by HAMP before foreclosure is possible. Currently, the government only “encourages” such reviews.

Bloomberg News obtained Treasury Department documents that described the plan, but as yet Obama administration officials aren’t confirming whether it will be implemented. Phyllis Caldwell, head of the Treasury Department’s Homeownership Preservation Office, testified before Congress on Thursday that the department will soon release guidance “which will include a set of improved protections for borrowers in the HAMP mortgage modification program.”

Wall Street spend most of Thursday down quite a bit, but rallied late in the day to end down only a little. The Dow Jones Industrial average lost 53.13 points, or 0.51 percent, while the S&P 500 was down 0.21 percent and the Nasdaq declined 0.08 percent.