5 Companies That Had A Rough Week

The Week Ending Feb. 7.

This week's roundup of companies that had a rough week includes Sony's exit from the PC business, layoffs at Dell, a bad day for Twitter's stock, another data security breach, and Google's latest dustup over privacy in Europe.

Sony Exiting The PC Business

After years of struggling to be a player in the PC market, Sony this week said it's selling its Vaio PC division to Japan Industrial Partners (JIP) for an undisclosed amount and getting out of the PC business. The companies expect to wrap up the deal in March.

Sony cited "drastic changes in the global PC industry" for its decision. The company will cease all manufacturing, sales and product development following the global launch of the Vaio spring lineup. JIP, meanwhile, will form a new company around the Vaio business and focus on business and consumer PCs for the Japanese market.

Sony said it would continue to develop and market smartphones and tablet computers.

Twitter Shares Pummeled

The value of Twitter's stock plummeted more than 24 percent Thursday after the social media company reported user growth slowed in the company's fourth quarter. That wiped out more than $9 billion of the company's market value. The slide in Twitter's stock occurred despite the better-than-expected sales growth the company reported: Revenue for the quarter ended Dec. 31 was $243 million, while the company reported a net loss of $511 million.

Twitter said it had 241 million monthly users in December, up 3.8 percent from 232 million at the end of September. That was the slowest quarter-to-quarter growth since the company began reporting usage numbers, according to Reuters. And those users refreshed their Twitter feeds, on average, 613 times a month, down 10 percent from 685 times in the third quarter, the New York Times reported.

Bell Canada Is The Latest Security-Breach Victim

Telecommunications vendor Bell disclosed this week that a data breach at a third-party supplier exposed more than 22,400 user names and passwords belonging to its small business customers.

Bell Canada said the attack was carried out on the supplier's IT system, but it did not say when the attack occurred or how long the data was exposed. Bell Canada has disabled the accounts, contacted the impacted customers and is working with the supplier and law enforcement to investigate the incident.

The incident is the latest of a string of high-profile security breaches in recent months, including retailers Target and Neiman Marcus.

Dell Cuts Several Thousand Staffers

The reports warned that Dell was preparing to cut as many as 15,000 people, including 20 percent of its U.S. sales force. But it's become clear those reports were "wildly inaccurate," as described in a statement from Dell media relations, and the cutbacks are closer to 2,000 or 3,000.

Still, any layoffs are bad news, especially for those losing their jobs. Dell said the cutbacks are part of the company's steps to streamline its business operations and improve efficiency. It's even possible (speculation alert) some of the cutbacks are related to the company's plans to turn 200,000 or more Dell Direct accounts over to channel partners.

Google Ordered To Display Privacy Breach Fine On French Page

Call it the new scarlet letter. France's top administrative court has ordered that Google must display on its French search page a notice saying it has been fined by a local data-protection watchdog over how user information is tracked and stored according to a Reuters' story. The French data protection agency, CNIL, has objected to how Google combines data collected about individuals across its multiple services, including YouTube, Gmail and Google+, according to Reuters. Last month CNIL fined Google 150,000 Euros (about $204,000) for the practice and not providing a way for users to opt out. It also ordered that the notice be posted on Google.fr for 48 hours. Google is appealing the fine, but France's top administrative court ruled Friday that the company must display the warning notice on its Web page in the meantime. Google has said it will comply, Reuters said.