Business Briefing

Microsoft’s Liddell hired for GM post

General Motors Co. is naming Microsoft Corp.'s Chris Liddell as its new chief financial officer.

GM is going outside the company to replace Ray Young, who is being transferred to China. The nation’s largest automaker said Liddell would bring depth and experience to the job of leading the company’s global financial and accounting operations.

The move comes after the former head of the U.S. government’s autos task force said that GM had the weakest finance operation that task force members had seen in a major company.


Sanofi-Aventis to buy Chattem

French drug maker Sanofi-Aventis said it planned to buy U.S. healthcare company Chattem Inc., maker of over-the-counter mainstays such as Gold Bond skin products, for $1.9 billion in cash.

The deal gives Sanofi-Aventis a distribution base for its popular allergy drug Allegra, which is awaiting approval to switch from prescription-only to an over-the-counter version, and for future switches of other drugs approaching the end of their patents.

Paris-based Sanofi-Aventis said it would offer $93.50 a share -- 44% more than Chattem’s average price over the last six months. The Chattanooga, Tenn., company makes two dozen consumer healthcare products, including Icy Hot pain relief medicine and Selsun Blue shampoo.

Chattem shares skyrocketed $23.16, or 33%, to $93.14.

Panasonic takes control of Sanyo

Panasonic Corp. said it had taken majority control of Sanyo Electric Co., officially forming one of the world’s largest electronics makers.

Panasonic said it had converted preferred shares to give it a 50.27% stake in Sanyo. It acquired the shares in a previously announced $4.6-billion tender offer that ended Dec. 9.

The acquisition gives Panasonic access to Sanyo’s advanced solar panel and rechargeable battery technology. The deal was delayed for months while the companies awaited clearance from anti-monopoly authorities.


Woods sponsor seeks protection

TLC Vision Corp., the eye-care services company that sponsors golfer Tiger Woods, has sought bankruptcy protection.

The company listed assets of $100 million to $500 million and debt of the same amount in Chapter 11 documents filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del.

TLC Vision said it reached an agreement with some senior lenders to restructure debt before the filing.

“Our relationship with Tiger Woods continues without change,” Stephen Phillips, an outside spokesman for TLC at Fleishman Hillard, said in an e-mail.


Walgreen profit up 20% in quarter

Drugstore operator Walgreen Co. said its fiscal first-quarter profit jumped 20%, mainly on higher prescription drug sales and from flu shots, topping Wall Street forecasts.

The company said results were helped by greater demand for flu shots in September and October, and said its pharmacies were taking more market share. But it emphasized that consumers were cutting back on holiday shopping because of high unemployment, hurting sales of items other than drugs.

The company said it earned $489 million, or 49 cents a share, up from $408 million, or 41 cents, a year earlier. Revenue rose 9.5% to $16.36 billion from $14.95 billion. The fiscal 2010 first quarter ended Nov. 30.

Walgreen shares fell 3 cents to $36.61.

-- times wire reports