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Hit with a $5.2 billion claim for taxes and interest by the US Internal Revenue Service, pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline PLC plans a court fight, asserting it has already been taxed in Britain, the Financial Times reported. The assessment is part of a long-running dispute over activities by the US arm of Glaxo Wellcome before its 2000 merger with SmithKlineBeecham and concerns a practice known as "transfer pricing." Under such a strategy, multinational companies have their subsidiaries in higher-tax countries make costly purchases from units in lower-tax nations to limit the parent firm's tax liabilities.

A federal judge in Beaumont, Texas, was hearing objections Wednesday to a $79 million proposed settlement of class-action lawsuits against tiremaker Bridgestone/Firestone. A spokeswoman for the company said there were about 110 objections to consider. The settlement concerns vehicle owners who bought three brands of tires recalled in 2000 after being linked to 270 traffic deaths, but who did not sustain injury or property damage. The company has paid tens of millions to settle other suits.

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A $1.2 billion sale of Deutsche Bank's real estate fund to a group of investors - several of them American - appeared imminent as the Monitor went to press. The deal would continue a strategy at Europe's second-largest bank to try to increase profits by divesting noncore assets. Last year, the bank agreed to sell 51 office buildings or other properties to New York's Blackstone Group for about $1.2 billion and unloaded $400 million worth of investments to rival banking giant Credit Suisse. Citing sources familiar with the latest deal, the financial reporting service Bloomberg.com said the buyers include US-based pension funds, American and European institutional investors, and "wealthy individuals."