Oracle, the nation's No. 1 maker of database software, said its fiscal fourth-quarter earnings rose 31 percent, to $527 million, or 36 cents a share, which was 4 cents better than the average estimate of analysts.

The SEC may propose a rule requiring companies to disclose financial relationships between board members and chief executives, amid questions about the independence of directors at Walt Disney Co. and Cendant. The Securities and Exchange Commission's staff, which is considering the plan as part of a broader review of executive- compensation rules, is deciding whether disclosure of these relationships could help produce tougher board oversight, said SEC official Brian Lane.

Corbis, a photo and image agency owned by Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, is getting into the news photography business with the purchase of the major French photo agency Sygma. The deal will create what Corbis said will be the largest photo and image database in the world, with about 65 million images, including 2.1 million on the Internet. The two closely held companies did not disclose financial terms of the deal.

Fidelity Investments, the biggest U.S. mutual fund company, purchased an equity stake in W.R. Hambrecht, an online investment bank that underwrites initial public stock offerings. Fidelity declined to disclose the size of the investment in the firm, started early last year by William Hambrecht, the co-founder and former head of securities firm Hambrecht & Quist Group.

Ford plans to install satellite radio receivers in its vehicles that can tune in up to 100 commercial- free channels delivered by CD Radio. The music, news and information channels will be delivered by three satellites that CD Radio will begin launching in January. Ford said it will begin producing cars and trucks with the satellite receivers by 2001.

Mylan Laboratories shareholder TIAA-CREF urged fellow shareholders to ask Mylan's board to remove or put to a vote its "dead hand" poison-pill defense. The pension system said it is concerned because the Mylan board lacks an independent majority. Such a defense prevents an acquisition by replacing a firm's board, as only incumbent directors may remove the defense.


A German court sentenced a 39-year-old Texan to four years in prison without probation for importing illegally copied Microsoft computer programs. It was the first time Germany has imposed a prison sentence in a crime involving software piracy, Microsoft said. The sentencing of the man, identified only as John S., follows the seizure by German customs officials of thousands of illegal copies of Microsoft software programs and manuals last August.


Best Buy said its first-quarter earnings tripled to reach a record amid strong sales. The consumer electronics retailer earned $47.28 million in the quarter ended May 29, more than three times the $15.73 million earned in the same period a year ago, topping analysts' expectations.

H.J. Heinz reported a $191.7 million loss for its fourth quarter, including $411.1 million in pretax restructuring charges. In the period a year ago, profit was $196.2 million.


A Pennsylvania toy company voluntarily recalled 7,000 doll-feeding kits because of a potential choking problem. Creative Designs International of Feasterville, Pa., has recalled the Magic Doll Feeding Sets that contain plastic bottle nipples, which young children could choke on. Consumers should return the toy to the store where it was purchased for a full refund and can contact the company at 1-888-869-7234 for more information.

Chicken nuggets are being recalled by Serenade Foods of Milford, Ind., because they may contain an unlisted dairy product, the Agriculture Department said. Serenade recalled about 480,000 pounds of its Maple Leaf Farms brand of "Crunchy Chicken Nuggets" because they may contain whey, a dairy product and allergen that could trigger life-threatening reactions in people allergic to milk or milk proteins. Questions about the recall should be directed to Serenade Foods at 219-658-4121.


America Online bought the part of closely held Digital Marketing Services that it didn't already own, gaining full control of the online marketer and researcher. Terms weren't disclosed. Dulles-based AOL, which already owned a majority stake, started Digital Marketing in 1995 with Dallas-based marketing firm MARC Group.

AOL also said it agreed to purchase a 10 percent interest in, a Web-site operator based in Hong Kong that is about to sell stock for the first time. Terms were not disclosed. runs bilingual English and Chinese Web sites in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.