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Microsoft will confront make-or-break negotiations with European Union regulators next month to avoid potential tough penalties as a result of a four-year investigation into alleged violation of antitrust rules, the Financial Times reported. The US software giant is accused of using the strong position of its Windows software to gain a stranglehold in markets for video software and servers. The Financial Times said EU regulators are preparing a draft decision that could demand Microsoft separate its Media Player video software from Windows, a move strongly opposed by the company. It also could be required to share technical data with competitors, allowing their servers to interact with Windows.

The takeover battle for Crédit Lyonnais, the sixth-largest bank in France, may not be over, according to signals sent by one of its largest shareholders. BNP Paribas, which appeared last week to have been shunted aside when rival Crédit Agricole agreed to buy 82 percent of Crédit Lyonnais for $16.6 billion, told French regulators it "may continue" its own purchase of shares. BNP Paribas already owns 16.4 percent of Crédit Lyonnais and has until mid-February to decide whether to contest the takeover.

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Oil industry giant BP PLC plans to put billions of dollars worth of assets on the market, among them mature offshore crude and natural gas wells in the North Sea, The Wall Street Journal reported. Citing sources familiar with BP's strategy, it said the company wants to unload the wells now rather than having to divert huge amounts of money that could be spent on other projects just to keep production from going into decline.

About 600 workers so far have accepted early retirement terms offered by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Utah's largest employer, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. It said the Mormon Church is feeling the effects of declining returns on its investments and an extensive temple-construction program, among other factors. The payroll reduction equals 2 percent of the church's workforce.


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