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The NBC unit of General Electric and Microsoft may soon become players in a widening bidding war for Metro- Goldwyn-Mayer and its coveted film collection, reports in The New York Times and New York Post said. Such speculation grew after media giant Time Warner threw its hat into the ring late Wednesday with a $5 billion offer to acquire MGM and its 4,200-title library of movies dating back to 1949. Sony Corp. has been courting MGM for months with a $5 billion cash and debt-assumption offer. But at a shareholders' meeting earlier this week, MGM executives told investors they were exploring alternatives, according to CBS MarketWatch.

Microsoft, which has faced a series of legal challenges in the US and Europe, learned Wednesday that a federal appeals court in Washington had unanimously approved the antitrust settlement it negotiated with the Bush administration two years ago. The settlement was contested by the state of Massachusetts, which proposed requiring that Microsoft remove parts of its software from the dominant Windows operating system. The court, however, rejected that idea as too confusing for consumers.

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Air Canada detailed its plan to emerge from bankruptcy, projecting that it will be able to repay creditors a maximum of 7 cents per dollar on each proven claim. The carrier said it has lowered its long-term debt to $2.15 billion, or more than three-quarters, since filing for court protection 15 months ago. If the plan wins approval in a vote of creditors and from Ontario's Superior Court, Air Canada said it should no longer need protection after Sept. 30.

In a deal valued at $1.5 billion, Charles River Laboratories said it will buy Inveresk Research Group, CBS MarketWatch reported. Charles River, based in Wilmington, Mass., services the pharmaceutical and biotech industries. Inveresk, of Cary, N.C., uses animals in product- safety testing and evaluation.

To the cheers of environmental activists, the world's largest company involved in genetically modified crop research said it will move its laboratories from England to the US. Syngenta AG cited a more favorable business and regulatory climate in announcing it has chosen to relocate to North Carolina. The site was not disclosed. It stopped short of also blaming a lack of support by the British government for its decision, but a spokesman for the Agriculture and Biotechnology Council told the Financial Times: "The whole industry understands Syngenta's decision. [Britain] is a difficult place to work."


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