Global sales of recorded music were essentially flat in 2004, with a reduction in audio sales offset by increases in DVD and digital music sales, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry reported. Markets were strong in the United States and Britain, and worldwide sales of physical formats declined 1.3 percent in value and by 0.4 percent in unit sales, to $33.6 billion.
Alcoa said it will cut 2,000 jobs in the next year to streamline operations and become more competitive. The aluminum maker is also selling its 46.5 percent stake in Orkla, a Norwegian metals and energy group, for about $870 million. The job cuts will result in after-tax charges of $20 million to $25 million but should eventually save the company $45 million a year.
Eliot L. Spitzer, the New York attorney general, said some U.S. money managers are hesitant to vote against the boards of companies in which they invest because they're concerned about losing pension contracts. "Their failure to exercise a voice means management ultimately goes unfettered," Spitzer said during a speech at a business school in Dublin. "It's primarily because those who make the determination of how to vote the shares, the proxies, aren't the ultimate beneficiaries."
Yukos, the onetime Russian oil power, has dropped its case for protection in the U.S. court system. It has been maneuvering for bankruptcy protection to try to stop the sale of its assets as ordered by the Russian government. The company lost 60 percent of its oil production capacity with the December sale of a key subsidiary in Moscow. Russia says Yukos owes $27.5 billion in back taxes. Yukos disputes that.
Germany's Lufthansa signed an agreement to take over Swiss International Air Lines in a deal worth up to $406 million. Major shareholders, including the Swiss government, said the deal was the best solution they could find for the airline, which has foundered since being created in 2002 from Swissair. The takeover needs regulatory approval.
Poland banned a genetically modified corn produced by Monsanto, ignoring European Union advice that the product is safe. It joins Germany, France, Austria, Luxembourg and Greece in banning the import of a gene-altered crop that has E.U. approval. The European Commission said it would put forward a proposal to the region's 25 nations seeking the lifting of those rules.
Brazil, which had its highest economic growth in a decade last year, should take measures to increase the flexibility of its budget, improve the efficiency of its labor markets and cut barriers to doing business, the International Monetary Fund said. The assessment comes in the IMF's final review of Brazil's $42 billion loan program and paves the way for a $1.4 billion disbursement.
Arthur Andersen, WorldCom's former auditor, can be confronted with evidence of its 2002 conviction for obstructing justice, ruled the judge presiding over a fraud suit filed by WorldCom investors. The judge ruled that investors' lawyers can't mention the conviction during their opening arguments at the trial next week but that if Andersen "opened the door" to the issue during trial, investor lawyers could introduce evidence that Andersen's role in obstructing an investigation of Enron triggered a review of its WorldCom work.
Flyi, parent of Dulles-based low-cost carrier Independence Air, said it reached agreement with the Association of Flight Attendants on a new 2 1/2-year contract. Flyi said the deal includes "significant quality of life" improvements for the airline's 560 flight attendants.
Williams-Sonoma said its fourth-quarter profit increased 0.5 percent, to $102.6 million. Revenue increased 8 percent, to $1.08 billion. For 2004, the home retailer said profit rose 15 percent, to $180.1 million. Revenue rose 14 percent, to $3.14 billion.
McCormick, the Sparks, Md.-based spice and flavoring company, said first-quarter earnings declined 5 percent, to $36 million (26 cents a share), from $38.1 million (27 cents) in the comparable quarter a year earlier. Revenue for the three months ended Feb. 28 rose 5 percent, to $603.6 million. The company said it bought a supply of vanilla beans in 2003, but prices later dropped more than expected because of a bumper crop.
Compiled from reports by the Associated Press, Bloomberg News, Dow Jones News Service and Washington Post staff writers.