Microsoft Corp investors, who had already pushed the shares up 43 percent this year, said yesterday's antitrust settlement with the US Department of Justice validated their faith that the largest software maker would emerge with its growth prospects intact. \n"It's a tremendous relief," said Larry Jones, chief investment officer of Durham, North Carolina-based NCM Capital Management Group Inc. Jones has been buying Microsoft shares this year as the company's legal prospects improved. \nMicrosoft is the best performer in the Dow Jones Industrial Average this year. Investors bought shares as the company sought to overturn a breakup order and settle the case on terms that didn't hinder growth and product development. The US accord, which lets Microsoft pursue its Web strategy and build new features into the Windows operating system, gave investors a new surge of optimism. \n"As bright as Microsoft's future was before, it's even brighter with this," said Michael Holland, who manages the Holland Balanced Fund, a US$60 million fund with 4 percent of its holdings in Microsoft stock. \n"The legal process will be more rational from now on and Microsoft will be allowed to compete." \nHolland said he bought "a chunk of his holdings" after an appeals court in June overturned a breakup of the Redmond, Washington-based company and removed the judge who ordered it. \nWith the major US legal concerns out of the way, the stock may rise to the low US$70s, said Marc Klee, money manager with the US$800 million John Hancock Technology Fund, which holds Microsoft shares. The shares fell US$0.44 yesterday to US$61.40. \nBill Rutherford, principal of Rutherford Investment Management, said a large jump is unlikely in the next few months, because the stock has already risen on speculation that a favorable settlement would be reached. \n"The market has been anticipating a settlement since the Bush administration came in," said Rutherford, whose firm has about US$100 million in assets and holds about 100,000 Microsoft shares. "I don't think it's a stock anyone would sell, but you can't expect a big run-up." \nThe 18 states suing Microsoft haven't approved the settlement, although three leading state attorneys general immediately praised the agreement. A judge said she wants the states to take a position by tomorrow. \nThe EU's antitrust investigation of Microsoft for dominating the market for software to run corporate networks is still in progress. The company is interested in settling that case as well, CEO Steve Ballmer said.. \nBecause Microsoft holds such a large part of the software market, Holland said Microsoft still faces legal scrutiny. The settlement is just "an important mile marker" in Microsoft's legal marathon, he said. \nStill, many investors say the worst is over because important concerns were put to rest. \nThe settlement won't require the company to make significant and immediate alterations to the Windows XP program that went on sale last week, as investors had feared. The required changes can wait for the first collection of bug fixes Microsoft releases. \nMore important to Microsoft's plans for the next several years, the company will be able to proceed with an Internet strategy that involves adding new programs and features to the Windows system that already runs 90 percent of the world's personal computers. \nInvestors were reassured that the settlement lets the company move forward with its plan, dubbed .Net, to develop Internet services that connect PCs, Web sites, networks and devices such as cell phones and organizers. The company started by adding such services to Windows XP and plans to reinforce that effort in future versions. Microsoft is pushing .Net as a way to boost sales as the PC market stagnates. \nThe resolution of the US antitrust case lets investors focus more closely on Microsoft's business. Investors say a slew of new product releases and the success of Windows 2000 for business computers and networks will lift sales in the next several quarters. The slowing US economy has sapped growth at corporate-software rivals such as Oracle Corp and PC makers that use Microsoft's software. \n"I have no concerns with their legal problems that could overwhelm the very positive product space, with Windows XP, .Net, the success of Windows 2000," said David Brady, who helps manage the Stein Roe Young Investor Fund, which holds 600,000 shares of Microsoft. \nThe settlement does restrict some Microsoft behavior that even its own investors said had to change to "comply with the law." \nMicrosoft must let computer makers promote rival software by placing a link on the primary Windows screen to those programs. That could increase competition for Microsoft's programs that are included in Windows. Microsoft had previously used desktop links to bolster its own new products and compensate for inferior products.
SCHEDULE: The delegation is due to meet with President Tsai Ing-wen this morning and witness the signing of an MOU on bilateral health cooperation in the afternoon US Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar yesterday arrived in Taipei aboard a US government plane at the head of a delegation that is the highest-level visit by a US official since Washington switched diplomatic recognition to China in 1979. Azar’s flight landed at Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport) at 4:48pm, nearly one hour earlier than scheduled, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. The apron where it landed is reserved for military aircraft, the Songshan Air Force Base Command said. The members of Azar’s delegation included HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Robert Kadlec, HHS Chief of Staff Brian
CHINESE FIGHTERS: Beijing marked the US Cabinet member’s visit by briefly sending two warplanes across the median line of the Taiwan Strait yesterday morning President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday met with US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar in the highest-level official meeting between the two nations since 1979. “It is a true honor to be here to convey a message of strong support and friendship from [US] President [Donald] Trump to Taiwan,” Azar said during the open portion of his courtesy call to the Presidential Office, which was streamed live online before Tsai and Azar held a closed-door meeting. “Taiwan’s response to COVID-19 has been among the most successful in the world, and that is a tribute to the open, transparent,
‘CROSS-STRAIT CONSIDERATIONS’: Groups said that the Ministry of Education’s policies excluded Chinese and students should not be blocked over political issues The Taiwan International Student Movement yesterday said it would protest today outside the Ministry of Education in Taipei against a policy that excludes some Chinese students from returning to Taiwan amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Since June 17, the ministry has allowed foreign students from 19 “low risk” and “medium-low risk” countries and regions to enter Taiwan. On July 22, it announced that it was relaxing restrictions to include students from all countries and regions who are graduating this semester and on Wednesday it further expanded entry to students enrolled in degree programs. A letter sent by the ministry on Wednesday to universities did
PARTNERSHIP AND LEARNING: A Princeton University health policy researcher said that the nation would be a ‘treasure trove’ of information for the US health chief US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar on Friday said he wants to learn about Taiwan’s “incredibly effective” response to COVID-19, even though the nation did things that the US has fumbled, such as having a unified strategy and citizens willing to wear masks. Azar leads a US delegation arriving today for a three-day visit to Taiwan. They are to meet with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and health system leaders, and Azar is to give a speech to public health graduates. “The message of this trip is about Taiwan,” Azar said in an interview, deflecting a question about China.