BUSINESS BRIEFING

BUSINESS BRIEFING

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

LEGAL

Court to Hear Tobacco Appeal

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit agreed to hear an appeal by the major tobacco companies that has the potential to reverse the class certification in a nationwide case involving light cigarettes. Defendants in the case include Altria Group's Philip Morris USA, Reynolds American, Loews's Carolina Group and British American Tobacco, which have been accused of misleading smokers into believing that light cigarettes were safer than regular ones. The case was certified in September as a class action, opening the door to possible damages totaling $200 billion.

ACCOUNTING

Ford Loss Rises in Restatement

Ford Motor said it lost more money in the first half of the year than previously reported because of corrections in the company's accounting of derivatives transactions. Ford's loss for the first quarter of this year was revised to $1.42 billion, from $1.19 billion, while the second-quarter loss was revised to $317 million, from $254 million. The second-biggest U.S. automaker also said it received an informal inquiry from the Securities and Exchange Commission about its accounting and is cooperating with the investigation.

TRADE

Protests at G-20 Meeting

Protesters charged barriers guarding a meeting of some top financial officials and pelted police with stones and garbage bins but were turned back by club-wielding police and mounted officers. About 3,000 people marched from a rallying point to the downtown Australian hotel where the Group of 20 was meeting. Energy security, climate change and the state of the global economy are on the agenda for the two-day meeting of the G-20, which includes the Group of Seven advanced industrial countries and the European Union as well as China, Brazil, India, Russia, South Korea and other major economies.

MERGERS & ACQUISITIONS

Bush Approves Lucent Takeover

President Bush approved the proposed $13.4 billion takeover of Lucent Technologies by French-owned Alcatel, saying the merger of the two telecommunications equipment companies does not present any major national security concerns. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States had recommended allowing the deal to go through. The acquisition required the committee's approval because of Lucent's work on sensitive government contracts. The companies said they expect to complete the deal on Nov. 30.

Wheeling-Pitt Vote Backs Esmark

Wheeling-Pittsburgh shareholders ousted its board of directors, rejecting a proposed deal with Brazilian steelmaker CSN and supporting the hostile takeover by Illinois steel distributor Esmark. An independent inspector still must certify the results, Wheeling-Pitt chief executive James G. Bradley said. Esmark plans to make the twice-bankrupt company, based in West Virginia, a more diverse production and distribution company.

Separately, Brazilian steelmaker CSN jumped into the bidding for Britain's Corus Group, offering about $8 billion to trump a $7.7 billion offer from India's Tata Steel.

FINANCE


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