Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Business Digest

German broadcaster sold to U.S. investor

FRANKFURT, Germany - U.S. entertainment mogul Haim Saban, perhaps best known for bringing the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers to the United States, broke into Germany's television market Monday with an agreement to take control of the country's second-largest private broadcaster from bankrupt KirchMedia.

KirchMedia is selling a controlling stake in ProSiebenSat.1, which has four television stations, to pay creditor banks after the collapse last year of Bavarian entrepreneur Leo Kirch's media empire.

The deal would make Saban a major force in a market with only two major private players. Public TV stations have almost half of viewers.

Elan sues to force King to finish deal

DUBLIN, Ireland - Cash-strapped Elan Corp. filed a lawsuit Monday against King Pharmaceuticals Inc. in hope of compelling the U.S. company to complete its proposed $850 million purchase of two brand-name drugs. It was filed in New York Supreme Court.

King, based in Bristol, Tenn., announced Jan. 30 that it would acquire from Elan the rights to the muscle relaxant Skelaxin and the insomnia drug Sonata, as well as Elan's 400-strong sales staff in the United States.

But King said Friday that it might back out of the deal because the U.S. Federal Trade Commission has opened an investigation into whether Elan illegally suppressed competitors' efforts to produce generic rivals to Skelaxin.

Gateway to reduce work force by 17%

POWAY, Calif. - Gateway Inc. said it will cut about 1,900 jobs, or 17 percent of its workforce.

The company said it is also closing 80 stores during the first quarter.

Rates rise in weekly Treasury auction

WASHINGTON - Interest rates on short-term Treasury securities rose in Monday's auction.

The Treasury Department sold $17 billion in three-month bills at a discount rate of 1.115 percent, up from 1.055 percent last week. An additional $17 billion was sold in six-month bills at a rate of 1.110 percent, up from 1.030 percent.

Ex-Merrill Lynch execs charged in Enron deal

WASHINGTON - The Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday charged four former senior Merrill Lynch executives with helping Enron inflate profit and mislead investors with two financing deals. The SEC also approved a settlement in which Merrill will pay $80 million to resolve the case.

The SEC and the brokerage last month reached the agreement regarding the 1999 transactions.

- From wire reports

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