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Visa and MasterCard may be ordered to refund $500 million to customers who used those credit cards for purchases in foreign countries, under a lawsuit that - if successful - could prompt a raft of similar suits, The Wall Street Journal reported. In a sealed preliminary decision, the newspaper said, a state court in California late last week sided with plaintiffs who accuse the credit issuers of failing to fully disclose fees for currency-exchange transactions. A final decision is expected within weeks.

In full damage-control mode, the telecommunications group Pacific Century Cyber Works (PCCW) announced it won't try to buy Britain's Cable & Wireless or the fixed-line operations of Japan Telecom. Regulators undertook an investigation of PCCW, Moody's Investors Service put its creditworthiness under review, and the Hong Kong Stock Exchange suspended trading in its shares amid reports that it might be attempting takeovers of those companies. Late last week, PCCW denied approaching Cable & Wireless but then admitted proposing that they discuss a deal. Its reported offer for Cable & Wireless, almost $4 billion, is roughly equal to its own market value. PCCW is based in Hong Kong.

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Roche Holding AG, one of the world's leading pharmaceutical companies, said it will buy medical equipment manufacturer Disetronic for about $1.2 billion. Both parties are Swiss. Roche is widely perceived in the industry as trying to stave off an eventual takeover by arch-rival Novartis, but its chief executive officer said acquiring Disetronic "absolutely didn't have any impact" on the situation.

Two mainstays of the women's magazine industry are to undergo significant makeovers as part of a strategy to attract younger readers and new advertisers. The redesigned Ladies' Home Journal and Woman's Day debut the changes in their March issues. Ladies' Home Journal first hit newsstands in 1883 and Woman's Day in 1937. Both have monthly circulations of about 4.1 million and a median reader age of 48.


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