Thursday, March 18, 2004

Business Digest

Tyco jurors told execs' acts were thefts

NEW YORK - Any money taken by two former Tyco International executives that wasn't authorized in the company's records is "wrongful, plainly and simply," a prosecutor told jurors Wednesday.

Assistant District Attorney Marc Scholl said L. Dennis Kozlowski and Mark H. Swartz stole millions by abusing Tyco executive programs, and then made sure that favored colleagues would share in the bounty to cover their tracks.

Kozlowski, Tyco's former chief executive officer, and Swartz, the former chief financial officer, are accused of looting Tyco of $600 million to finance baronial lifestyles and fund pet investments.

Bombardier to close seven plants in Europe

TORONTO - Bombardier Inc. said Wednesday it was cutting 6,600 jobs and closing seven plants in a massive restructuring of its troubled rail division in Europe.

The Montreal-based company will cut 18.5 per cent of the workforce at its Bombardier Transportation unit and close seven plants in five European countries. The moves will cost an estimated $777 million.

Bombardier's rail division is the world's biggest maker of train equipment, with about 36,000 employees.

Buyout brings together science, lab companies

CONCORD, N.H. - Fisher Scientific International Inc., one of the world's biggest wholesale distributors of scientific equipment, said Wednesday it will buy Apogent Technologies Inc., a maker of lab equipment, for $2.68 billion in stock.

Both companies are based in New Hampshire.

Microsoft in talks to avoid EU sanctions

BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European Union insisted it was "on track" Wednesday to conclude its antitrust case against Microsoft Corp. next week, even as the software company scrambled to reach a deal to avert sanctions for allegedly abusing its Windows monopoly.

Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer and general counsel Brad Smith were in Brussels negotiating with the EU antitrust office, sources said, after arriving Tuesday for a surprise face-to-face session with EU Competition Commissioner Mario Monti.

Sources said Microsoft was putting new proposals on the table to meet the EU's concerns.

Monti has signaled his determination to bring the 5-year-old case to a conclusion next Wednesday. This week advisers from the 15 EU countries unanimously backed his draft ruling against the U.S. software giant.

Default-free month is first in six years

Not one company with rated corporate debt defaulted last month, the first default-free month in more than six years. This rare clean bill of health gives clear proof companies are again in better shape.

It's a welcome change from the past three years, when scores of well-known companies buckled under their debt loads. Kmart, United Airlines' parent UAL and the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas all filed for bankruptcy protection since late 2000. Seven of the 10 biggest Chapter 11 filings, including WorldCom and Enron, occurred since 2001, says.

Google redesign means more ad opportunities

SAN FRANCISCO - Online search engine leader Google Inc. is introducing a new system designed to make it easier for people to find things closer to their homes, paving the way for the company to make more money selling ads to small businesses.

The new algorithmic formulas unveiled Wednesday allow Google to display more local information in response to search requests that include a ZIP code or a city's name.

Google says these geographic queries are now more likely to generate phone numbers and specific addresses on its main results page.

Court hears disputed Adelphia purchases

NEW YORK - Adelphia Communications Corp. paid for Rigas family purchases that ranged from beauty services to naming rights at a university and mortgage payments on a multimillion-dollar condominium, an accounts-payable manager testified Wednesday.

The company's founder and former chairman John Rigas, his sons Timothy and Michael Rigas, and former executive Michael Mulcahey are on trial in federal court on charges of conspiracy and fraud. Each has pleaded not guilty.

From wire reports

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Sex pill maker sued over claims
City votes $2.5M for condos
Erpenbeck's victims get their say
Immigrant tastes push goat sales
It's not whether Reds win or lose, marketers decide
Alderwoods report shows a turnaround
Shareholders OK mega-bank merger
AK Steel bill wins final passage
Fitch lowers bond rating for DPL
Higher energy costs put Feb. CPI up 0.3%
Greenspan: Banking system solid
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