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Fri, Nov 17, 2006 - Page 10 News List

World Business Quick Take

AGENCIES

■ Computers
Dell under investigation

Dell Inc said US federal regulators have begun a formal investigation into the computer giant, which had been part of an informal inquiry since August. Dell also said it was postponing the release of its third quarter earnings report -- scheduled for yesterday after markets closed -- until sometime later in the month. The company said on Wednesday the earnings report delay was unrelated to the widening Securities and Exchange Commission probe. A spokesman said Dell did not know what the SEC was specifically investigating. In a press release, Dell said the delay was due to the "level of complexity the company is facing in the preparation of its preliminary results."

■ Software

Office Live launched in US

Microsoft launched its Office Live suite of online business software in the US on Wednesday and said it would release test versions in Europe and Japan next week. Internet-based Office Live applications geared to small businesses were available in a free "Basics" version and in an upgraded "Essentials" package costing US$19.95 monthly and a "Premium" version for US$39.95. Free beta, or trial, versions of Office Live would be available in France, Britain, Germany and Japan on Tuesday, Microsoft said. The Redmond, Washington, software giant billed the suite of software as a tool for businesses to create Web sites, attract customers and manage their affairs.

■ Energy

Enron executive sentenced

Richard Causey, the last of the top Enron Corp executives to learn his punishment, was sentenced on Wednesday to five-and-a-half years in prison for his role in one of the biggest corporate scandals in US history. The former chief accounting officer pleaded guilty in December to securities fraud two weeks before he was to be tried along with Enron founder Kenneth Lay and former chief executive Jeffrey Skilling on conspiracy, fraud and other charges related to the company's collapse. Causey also agreed to fork over US$1.25 million to the government and forfeited a claim to about US$250,000 in deferred compensation as part of his plea deal. Unlike others at Enron, Causey didn't skim millions of dollars for himself from shady deals.

■ Pharmaceuticals

Merck outsourcing R&D

Merck & Co has agreed to outsource some of its drug research work to India's Advinus Therapeutics in a deal that is expected to yield up to US$150 million for the Indian company in the first year. The Indian firm, which is owned by the Tata Group, will collaborate with Merck on R&D of drugs for such metabolic disorders as diabetes, obesity and hypertension, said Rashmi Barbhaiya, managing director of Advinus. He said Merck would retain the right to take the most promising candidates into commercial development.

■ Economy

Japanese get record raises

Workers in Japan are getting record-high bonuses, an average of ¥868,932 (US$7,370), a survey of major companies by the Nihon Keizai Shimbun showed. Bonus amounts rose an average of 1.97 percent from last year, according to the business newspaper's survey of 197 companies released yesterday. The amount of winter bonus pay for workers this year beat a previous record set in 1997 of ¥807,188.

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