Microsoft board faces suit
Microsoft Corp’s board faces a lawsuit over the way it handled an error with its Internet Explorer browser that ended up costing the company a record-breaking US$731 million fine by EU antitrust regulators. The lawsuit, brought by shareholder Kim Barovic in US federal court in Seattle on Friday, charges that directors and executives, including founder Bill Gates and former chief executive officer Steve Ballmer, failed to manage the company properly and that the board’s investigation into how the miscue occurred was insufficient. The legal action is the first to emerge from a humiliating episode for Microsoft, which the software company has never fully explained and has accounted for only as a “technical error.” In March last year, the EU levied its largest-ever antitrust fine against Microsoft for breaking a legally binding commitment made in 2009 to ensure that consumers in Europe had a choice of how they access the Internet, rather than defaulting to Internet Explorer.
Exxon CEO gets US$28.1m
The chief executive of Exxon Mobil Corp received compensation worth US$28.1 million last year, a 3 percent increase over the previous year, according to an analysis of a company regulatory filing. Most of Rex Tillerson’s compensation was in the form of stock awards, which the largest US oil company valued at US$21.3 million when they were granted. His overall compensation for last year was up from US$27.2 million in 2012. Tillerson, 62, received a salary of US$2.7 million, a 6 percent increase from a year ago, plus a cash bonus of nearly US$3.7 million, which was down 20 percent because Exxon’s earnings fell compared with 2012, the company said.
Alcoa’s rating hit again
Alcoa Inc, the largest US aluminum producer, was cut to junk by a second ratings company as a global oversupply of the metal hampers profitability. Fitch Ratings said in a statement on Friday that it cut Alcoa’s credit grade one level below investment grade to “BB+” from “BBB-.” It sees Alcoa’s total debt remaining more than two-and-a-half times its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. The company was cut to junk by Moody’s Investors Service in May last year. Standard & Poor’s rates its debt “BBB-,” the lowest investment-grade level.
Orix eyes PrimeCredit bid
Orix Corp, Japan’s most acquisitive financial firm, is considering bidding for Standard Chartered PLC’s consumer credit unit in Hong Kong, according to two people with knowledge of the matter. Orix may seek to add another investor to buy PrimeCredit Ltd, said one of the people, asking not to be identified because the information is private. London-based Standard Chartered wants to sell the unit for about US$700 million, almost three times book value, and plans to compile a list of potential bidders this month, another person said. Standard Chartered chief executive Peter Sands said last month that he may sell the unit as the UK bank cuts costs and pares operations lacking sufficient scale. Buying PrimeCredit would help Orix, whose businesses include leasing, lending and real estate, expand abroad as a shrinking Japanese population limits the domestic growth potential of firms.