Whole Foods ends year with fourth-quarter surge

Grocer Whole Foods Market Inc. more than doubled its fourth-quarter net income and raised its full-year outlook as sales rose nearly 15 percent.

The Austin, Texas-based company said Wednesday that it earned $57.5 million, or 33 cents per share, for the quarter. That’s up from $28.7 million, or 20 cents per share, a year earlier.

Revenue rose to $2.1 billion.

The results beat analyst expectations for earnings of 28 cents per share on revenue of $2.07 billion.

Restructuring of MGM to clear way for ‘Hobbit’

Hollywood studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., the home of James Bond, filed for bankruptcy protection on Wednesday in a plan that had the backing of its lenders, and it sought permission to begin funding its half of “The Hobbit.”

The “prepackaged” bankruptcy plan, more than a year in the making, should go quickly. MGM is to be managed by the co-CEOS of Spyglass Entertainment.

MGM lenders will trade about $4 billion in debt for stock in the new company, valued at around $2 billion.

Billionaire investor Carl Icahn was involved in the run-up to the filing, first backing a rival takeover attempt by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp., then throwing his weight behind Spyglass last week.

Delta flight attendants decide union not needed

Flight attendants at Delta Air Lines voted against organizing themselves into a collective bargaining unit, and ended 60 years of unionization at its Northwest Airlines unit, the Association of Flight Attendants said Wednesday.

It was a narrow defeat after a bitter fight, and with a large turnout of voters. Of the more than 20,000 flight attendants working for the Atlanta-based carrier, 9,544 cast their ballots against the union, while 9,216 supported it.

The AFA-CWA said it was “extremely disappointed” by the election, which many had thought the union would clinch. It also accused the airline of heavy-handed intimidation and coercion.

Keeping out the union may now help Delta management keep its labor costs under control as it struggles to reap greater efficiencies from its 2008 merger with unionized Northwest Airlines.

Delta, the world’s second-largest airline, is largely nonunion.

“We urge the AFA to respect our flight attendants’ choice so that we may move quickly to align pay, benefits and work rules and produce a single seniority list,” the company said in a statement.

Shares of Delta, after being in the red for much of the day, reversed after the announcement.

The election could be a bellwether for Delta’s other labor groups. Some 14,000 baggage handlers are also casting ballots on whether to unionize, and more than 16,000 customer-service agents begin voting next week.

Iowa convenience chain ends 7-Eleven takeover

Casey’s General Stores Inc. said Wednesday that it has dismissed a $43 per-share takeover bid from 7-Eleven Inc. and ended negotiations with the convenience store operator.

7-Eleven made an initial bid of $40 in September, which it later raised. Casey’s said the latest offer doesn’t reflect the value of the company, and it ended talks with 7-Eleven.

Casey’s, based in Ankeny, Iowa, has been the object of takeover offers as competitors in the convenience store industry try to consolidate.

Britain throws down torch in race for high-tech firms

London’s Olympic Park could be transformed into a rival to Silicon Valley under plans being outlined Thursday for Britain to create a new home for the world’s leading technology companies.

In a speech, Prime Minister David Cameron said he hoped that a district redeveloped to host the 2012 summer Olympic Games could eventually serve as a hub for high-tech businesses.

Cameron said Britain will help Internet entrepreneurs to win visas – despite a hardening of the country’s immigration regimes – and review stringent intellectual property laws to help encourage companies developing new online services and products to relocate to London.

The city has a growing cluster of technology firms in the Old Street and Shoreditch districts, dubbed the “Silicon Roundabout” after a major traffic circle nearby.