Business digest: EBay says it won’t buckle to Icahn’s pressure to shed PayPal

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Posted: Tuesday, February 25, 2014 12:00 am

EBay says it’s sticking with PayPal, whether minority shareholder Carl Icahn likes it or not.

The online auction site said Monday that it continues to believe stockholders are best served by keeping PayPal as part of the company.

EBay was responding to a blistering letter from Icahn that pressed for the San Jose, Calif., company to shed the payments business. — AP

Tech companies to merge in $1.59 billion deal

RF Micro Devices Inc. has agreed to buy TriQuint Semiconductor Inc. for $1.59 billion, creating a larger supplier to phone makers such as Apple Inc. to help cut costs and become profitable again.

The transaction, billed as a merger of equals, represents an implied price of $9.73 for each TriQuint share, a 5.4 percent premium over last week’s closing price, the companies said Monday. Former shareholders of RF Micro, based in Greensboro, N.C., and Hillsboro, Ore.-based TriQuint will each own about 50 percent of the post-merger company, which will have a new name.

RF Micro and TriQuint, which get most of their revenue from components that help mobile phones connect to cellular networks, both posted losses last year. The combination reduces the number of suppliers and is set to boost their profits by making it harder for customers such as Apple and Samsung Electronics Co. to push back on pricing, said Mike Burton, an analyst at Brean Capital LLC. — Bloomberg News

Massachusetts probes 401(k) policies

The Massachusetts Securities Division is calling on 401(k) plan administrators to report how many companies have shifted to a lump-sum matching contribution once a year, a change that can undermine worker savings.

The unit sent a letter to the 25 largest providers of 401(k) plans, requesting the number of employers who pay distributions at year-end, when the move was made from more frequent payroll periods and what workers are told about the potential consequences, the division said Monday.

“At a time when most Americans have much of their retirement savings in these 401(k) plans, it is crucial that they are made aware of the risks involved when a company shifts to a year-end distribution,” William F. Galvin, Massachusetts secretary of the commonwealth and chief securities regulator, said.

Companies across industries are squeezing 401(k) contributions by holding back on the amount and timing of their matching funds, making it harder for U.S. workers to save for retirement. AOL Inc. called attention to the practice earlier this month when Chief Executive Officer Tim Armstrong announced plans to make payments in one sum at the end of year, citing spiraling health-care costs. The move touched off a controversy, Armstrong apologized and the company reversed its decision.

Galvin said that AOL’s maneuvering and news reports showing that the practice was more widespread than thought influenced the division’s decision to open the inquiry. — Bloomberg News

Ford hopes changes to boost Focus sales

DEARBORN, Mich. — Ford is giving its Focus compact car a small face-lift and a more fuel-efficient engine as it tries to boost sluggish sales in the U.S.

The Focus, which Ford bills as the top-selling vehicle name in the world, will get some cosmetic updates inside and out for 2015. Ford will also equip it with the 1-liter, three-cylinder turbocharged engine that’s now available in Europe.

Gas mileage wasn’t released, but Ford says it will be better than the current Focus, which has a 2-liter, four-cylinder engine that can get 36 to 40 mpg on the highway. The smaller Fiesta with the 1-liter engine gets an estimated 45 mpg on the highway. — AP

Talk of Ford decision lifts BlackBerry

BlackBerry Ltd. shares surged after its QNX software was said to be favored by Ford Motor Co. for its next-generation Sync system.

Ford, struggling with in-car technology flaws, will no longer use Microsoft Corp.’s Windows for Sync, instead basing the system on QNX, according to people briefed on the matter. Using QNX will be less expensive than licensing Microsoft technology and will improve the flexibility and speed of the next Sync system, the people, who asked not to be identified, said.

BlackBerry shares jumped 7.5 percent Monday.

Ford’s decision highlights the value of QNX for BlackBerry, the smartphone maker that lost 95 percent of its value from mid-2008 to November and saw the collapse of a proposed $4.7 billion buyout. Ford has more than 7 million vehicles on the road with Sync using Microsoft voice-activated software to make mobile-phone calls and play music. — Bloomberg News

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