Updated: At least 65 killed in Christchurch earthquake

A devastating earthquake struck Christchurch, New Zealand, several hours ago, killing at least 65 people. According to the Associated Press, at least 100 more people are missing and believed to be buried. Search teams are digging through the wreckage to find survivors and medical workers are striving to help those injured by the 6.3-magnitude quake, the second major quake to hit Christchurch, a city of 350,000, in five months. A more powerful 7.1 magnitude earthquake hit the area on Sept. 4, but caused no deaths because it was farther from heavily populated areas of the city.

The earthquake destroyed the spire of the city’s historic stone cathedral. Tall buildings were flattened, sending chunks of concrete and bricks hurtling onto cars, buses and pedestrians below, AP reports.

Thousands of people in the city moved into temporary shelters at schools, community halls, in tents or under plastic sheeting.

Search-and-rescue teams are flying in from Australia, the United States, and elsewhere.

Chris Wilkinson of First Retail in Wellington — about a 35 minute flight from Christchurch — says, “While central Christchurch is an absolute disaster, some of the surrounding suburbs and outlying towns are relatively unscathed. While they are desperately worried, they are also trying to maintain some business continuity wherever possible. It’s wonderful to see everyone is rallying to help them — and those less fortunate.”

Wilkinson and his staff are among those trying to help. “Our team was in early today to do whatever we could for clients and those we know there,” he says. “I have just come off the telephone with a supplier that is hiring a truck to get supplies into Christchurch later today. The distributor of Adventa Instant Photo Gifts has teamed up with other wholesalers and is helping get product through to stores against the odds. They are also loading the truck with basic foodstuffs to help in case of need. Currently there are no couriers operating into the region hence their initiative.”

Wilkinson also says Brian Kearney and Sam Omar from Independent Photo Supplies have been contacting those in the industry to offer help wherever possible. They have mobilized other stores to help fulfill web orders where needed.

“All PMA members in Christchurch city center will have to remain closed for an indefinite period. Access is restricted as emergency services struggle to find victims and secure buildings. The impact on peoples lives has been immense,” Wilkinson states. “Indeed, the New Zealand Prime Minister has said that these are our darkest days. Our thoughts are with friends and colleagues in Christchurch.”

View a CBS News video segment on the quake here.

SoftTouch Solutions releases FrameReady 8.0

SoftTouch Solutions, Petrolia, Ontario, Canada, has released FrameReady 8.0.

Among the 20 new advancements is “Scenarios,” allowing framers to create up to five designs on one work order. The side-by-side comparison of components and prices can simplify the decision-making process. The new Rewards point system lets framers determine the dollar-to-point ratio and point redemption value. Individual customers can be given bonus points or have special rates.

The new Quick Find searches all fields in a file with just a single entry.

The new Gift Card file uses professionally designed, numbered, and barcoded gift cards to enhance sales. A transaction log is created for each card. Credit can be added to a card at any time.

FrameReady 8 can be configured for metric measurements & pricing.

Visit www.frameready.com  and view the FrameReady 8 video or call 888-281-3303.

In memoriam: Fritz Huebener

The previous CEO of the German imaging manufacturer, Tetenal and honorary life member of the German Photographic Industry Association, Fritz Huebener, died Feb. 7, 2011, at the age of 87. He will be remembered as an outstanding entrepreneur and advocate of the interests of the whole industry.

Huebener joined Tetenal in 1951 as an authorized representative and became majority shareholder and CEO in 1960. In 1993, Fritz Hübener conveyed the CEO function to his son, Matthias Hübener, and became chairman of the company’s supervisory board, a position he held until 2005.

In addition to his entrepreneurial responsibilities, Huebener dedicated his professional life to the interests of the whole photo and imaging industry and beyond. From 1977 to 1984, he was president of the Association of the Photochemical Industry (now I&P Europe) and remained a member of its Board until May 1994. Fritz Hübener was also one of the founders of the European Association of the Photochemical Industry. He also served for over ten years on the board of the German Photographic Industry Association and was appointed honorary life member of the association.

Beyond the photo and imaging industry, Fritz Hübener was a member of various committees of the Association of the Chemical Industry (VCI) and also served as a member of the Chamber of Commerce Lübeck, Germany, where he chaired different committees and advisory boards.

For his contributions to the whole industry and his successful entrepreneurial career, Fritz Hübener was awarded with the Distinguished Service Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1994.

Best Buy announces actions to improve shareholder returns

Best Buy Co. Inc., Minneapolis, Minn., announced a series of actions intended to enhance growth in key strategic businesses and improve the financial performance of its International segment. The company reported that fiscal 2012 new store openings will be focused primarily on the profitable growth platforms of its Best Buy Mobile business in the United States and its Five Star business in China.

In addition, the company plans to restructure its operations in its Best Buy-branded China and Turkey markets. The company also announced plans to improve efficiencies in its U.S. supply chain operations.

Altogether, the company estimates that these restructuring actions will result in annual pre-tax net savings of $60 million to $70 million, once fully realized in fiscal 2013. The company expects these restructuring actions to result in charges during fiscal 2011 and 2012 totaling $225 million to $245 million. The company stated that it continues to expect fiscal 2011 diluted EPS of $3.20 to $3.40, excluding the restructuring charges described in this news release.

The company announced the following selected new store plans for fiscal 2012:

  • Best Buy Mobile small-format stores: The company plans to open approximately 150 Best Buy Mobile stand-alone-stores in the United States in fiscal 2012. These openings would take the total Best Buy Mobile stand-alone-stores to approximately 325 in the United States at the end of fiscal 2012. Best Buy Mobile continues to be a successful model in the company’s Connected World strategy which has rapidly grown wireless connection revenues and profits in the U.S. market.
  • Five Star in China: The company plans to open 40 to 50 Five Star stores in growing markets in fiscal 2012 in China. These openings would take the total Five Star stores to approximately 210 at the end of fiscal 2012. Five Star has been a profitable business model in the large and fast growing consumer electronics market in China. The company believes that Five Star provides Best Buy with an excellent strategic growth option in the important China marketplace.
  • Best Buy branded large-format stores: The company plans to open approximately 6 to 8 large-format stores in the United States, resulting in square footage growth of less than 1 percent (which is a significant reduction when compared to the average square footage growth rate of 5 percent during the last three years). The company also plans to open a total of approximately 18 Best Buy-branded large-format stores in Canada, United Kingdom and Mexico during fiscal 2012. The company believes these International markets continue to represent significant opportunities to both serve customers and deliver profitable growth for shareholders.

The announcement includes plans by the company to exit the Turkey test market and to restructure the Best Buy-branded test stores in China. The exit from the Turkey market includes closure of all current operations in the country, including the company’s two Best Buy large-format stores. Restructuring activities in China include closure of the nine Best Buy-branded stores. The company intends to explore other more profitable growth options for the Best Buy brand and plans to reopen two of the China stores at a later date. The company anticipates consolidating its support operations for the Best Buy brand in China with the existing Five Star business. The company also noted that as a result of the reduction in the planned international expansion, it expects to reduce its International segment’s IT infrastructure costs and write down related IT assets.

The company plans to restructure certain end-to-end supply chain processes in the United States, which it believes will improve efficiency, enhance customer service and reduce costs. This restructuring will result in charges related to asset impairments on real estate, equipment and inventory as well as costs incurred to deliver labor efficiencies. Separately, the company noted that it will take an impairment related to certain intangible tradename assets as a part of its restructuring activities.

The company estimates that restructuring charges, which include asset impairments, settlement of lease obligations, facility closure costs, severance costs, and inventory adjustments will total $225 million to $245 million, including approximately $60 million of cash settlement costs, all on a pre-tax basis. Given the timing of these actions, the company expects that the majority of the charges will be reported in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2011 (approximately $210 million to $230 million or $0.33 to $0.36 diluted EPS impact) with the balance of the charges reported in fiscal 2012.

The company expects to realize significant ongoing benefits from these restructuring actions. It estimates total annual pre-tax net savings to be in the range of $60 million to $70 million when fully realized in fiscal 2013. The company expects approximately $40 million of this savings amount to be realized in fiscal year 2012. The company noted that the largest portion of the anticipated savings will come as a result of reduced operating losses and lower IT infrastructure costs related to actions taken in the China and Turkey markets.

Samsung advances Smarter Life concept in Europe

Samsung’s European leadership outlined the company’s strategy for growth in the region in 2011 as well as Samsung’s 2011 product portfolio at the third annual Samsung European Forum at Műcsarnok, Budapest.

Innovations in Internet-connected TVs, consumer-inspired digital cameras and the latest mobile technology combined with plans for developing Samsung’s regional market presence in B2B, laptops, printers and digital imaging were laid out in the context of Samsung’s unifying principle – the Smarter Life. Seokpil Kim, the president and CEO of Samsung Electronics Europe, defined the pillars of the Smarter Life: Smart Design, Smart Experiences and Smart Connections.

  • Smart Design – Creates intuitive designs that increase functionality for consumers
  • Smart Experiences – Provide a wide variety of applications, games and programming delivered on a broad range of platforms through bright and dynamic screens
  • Smart Connections – Allow Samsung devices to automatically connect to each other, sharing content and enhancing user experiences

Building on last year’s US$135.8 billion global revenues and US$15.2 billion profit records—the most successful in the company’s history—Samsung will aim to increase market share product categories such as mobile, printers and netbooks. Samsung is already the No. 1 European provider of large screen LCD televisions, LCD monitors, Blu-Ray players, home theater systems and refrigerators.

Europe will also see several innovations from Samsung this year:

  • Accessories – Samsung introduced a line of accessories including the world’s lightest, prescription-ready 3D glasses, Skype-certified HD camera for TV conferencing, wireless recharger and several wall mounts
  • Blu-ray – The BD-7500 boots up in three seconds, offering 2D-to-3D conversion and the ability to convert all content to full HD
  • Blu-ray Home Theater Systems – The HT-C6750W is Samsung’s next-generation system, featuring 3D Sound that synchs audio and video to create an immersive experience in which the sound ‘moves’ with the 3D picture

Embracing the ideas of Smart Design and Smart Experiences, Samsung unveiled an impressive lineup of digital cameras, camcorders and a family of interchangeable lenses in recognition of what consumers want from their devices—to easily capture and share images on the spot.

  • SH100 – Wi-Fi enabled, the SH100 allows photos to be uploaded instantly to social networking sites and automatically backed up on a PC. Customers can also connect with Android-based smartphones to create an extra remote control and viewing device for the camera.
  • ST700 – The ultimate in dual-screen innovation from Samsung, the ST700 has a largest-ever front screen, a 3.0” back touch screen and is host to a range of photo effects through features like Smart Filter 2.0 and Magic Frame, which gives a range of different photo effects.
  • Q10 – The Q10 makes recording easier than ever with its innovative Switch Grip, adjusting the LCD screen automatically according to however the device is held. Samsung’s full HD camcorder technology with BSI CMOS sensor gives spectacular image quality that is easy to achieve.
  • NX series Samsung’s successful NX family has recently grown to include five new premium lenses, making it easier for users to choose the perfect way to capture their scene. Samsung has also recently launched the new NX11, which builds on the success of the NX10 and looks set to strengthen Samsung’s ownership of this fast moving and innovative area of the camera industry.

Both the Q10 camcorder and Samsung’s premium camera range deliver Smart Experiences through an easy to use, touch-based user interface called Smart Touch 3.0. This interface, based on Samsung’s expertise in touch mobile phones, gives customers the ability to drag, click and control ‘app-style’ icons and easily flip through photos.

Broadening the Horizon of Smart Mobile Devices

Samsung also revealed its new class of Android -based smart phones and tablets in the GALAXY family line, a powerful lineup exemplifying the Smarter Life in the areas of speed, screen and content.

Four new members join the GALAXY family line in 2011, all of which are currently available in Russia and will be rolling out to additional European countries throughout the year.

  • GALAXY Ace – Designed for trendy young professionals, offering a premium experience with a 3.5-inch HVGA display on a compact and comfortable handset. Its 800MHz processor, voice search and ThinkFree document viewer ensures quality performance.
  • GALAXY Fit – Crafted for the user who wants a device that meets all the challenges of a career and a busy social life. On a 3.31-inch QVGA display, the Samsung GALAXY Fit is functional and fun with a user experience that is optimised for sharing and smooth web browsing on the go.
  • GALAXY Gio – Developed for stylish young professionals who want to stay connected with a sleek device that has enhanced social networking capabilities. Based on the Italian term for “jewel”, the name Gio reflects design perfection and the strength to last with a 3.2-inch HVGA display.
  • GALAXY Mini – Made to be the first smart phone for trendy and sociable youngsters. With a 3.14-inch QVGA display, the Samsung GALAXY mini embodies productivity and performance in a compact design and is the perfect gift for smart phone-rookies. It also offers Google™ voice actions and Quick Office document viewer, all powered by a 600MHz processor.

Samsung’s Notebook Series 9 is the world’s first laptop to use duralumin for its external casing. Duralumin, normally used in aircrafts, is a strong, lightweight material that helps give the notebook an aerodynamic look. Designed with performance in mind, the Series 9 features a vivid ‘SuperBright Plus’ display with 400nit brightness and vibrant color reproduction (16 million colors), providing users with crystal clear picture quality while offering unforgettable multimedia experiences. With its Fast Start technology and solid state drive, the Series 9 can start in just 12 seconds—60 percent faster than a hard drive.

For those looking to enhance business applications, Samsung’s two 3D LED monitors—the SA750 and SA950 3D—incorporate Samsung’s ultra-slim design concept, while the 950 also includes 2D-to-3D conversion capability.

DigitalPost Interactive to sell Rovion to Local.com

Digital media-sharing and online advertising company DigitalPost Interactive Inc., Irvine, Calif., executed an Asset Purchase Agreement for the sale of the assets of its wholly-owned subsidiary, Rovion Inc., to Local.com Corp.

Under the terms of the Agreement, which is subject to approval by the holders of a majority of DigitalPost’s common stock and consents from certain DigitalPost debtholders, Local.com will pay $1.5 million in cash, $400,000 of which is to be held in escrow and released to DigitalPost if certain Rovion performance criteria are met in the first six months after closing.

Should DigitalPost stockholders approve the sale and the relevant consents are obtained from the debt holders, and all other remaining closing conditions are met, the asset sale is expected to close in mid-May of this year.

CSR announces merger with Zoran

CSR PLC and Zoran Corp. entered into a merger agreement under which Zoran will merge with CSR for an equity value equivalent to approximately US$679 million. Under the terms of the Merger Agreement, it is proposed that Zoran shareholders will receive 1.85 ordinary shares of CSR in the form of American Depositary Shares for each share of Zoran common stock held. In addition, CSR announces that it intends to return up to US$240 million to shareholders via an on-market share buyback program.

CSR is a global leader in wireless connectivity and location. Zoran provides market-leading imaging and video technology for digital camera, home entertainment and multifunction printer products.

DigiLabs and PT Samafitro complete photo solution implementation with Indonesia print providers

Photo creativity software publisher DigiLabs, Palo Alto, Calif., and Indonesia-based imaging and printing solution provider PT Samafitro finalized the implementation of customized photo solutions with key leading print service providers in Indonesia, which are using HP Indigo and Kodak NexPress printers. The printers include: Snappy, Prima Graphia, Langsungcetak, Universal, and Subur. All the systems support flexible creation and ordering ways including creating at home and ordering at a multiple retail locations.

The implementation includes multiple stores and enables users to create their products at home and hand carry to participating retail locations where the transaction is finalized and orders routed to central production locations for printing.