Pfizer received Federal Trade Commission permission to buy Pharmacia for $57 billion, clearing the final regulatory obstacle to completing the takeover this week. Both companies last month agreed to sell some products to win U.S. antitrust approval, and in February they reached a similar accord to obtain European Commission clearance. The acquisition will give Pfizer all the revenue for Celebrex and Bextra, top-selling painkillers that are now jointly marketed by the two companies.

Windstar Inquiry May Lead to Recall

U.S. auto-safety regulators stepped up an investigation that may lead to a recall of 1 million of Ford Motor's Windstar minivans because of wheels that can fall off as a result of faulty studs. The inquiry involves 1997 through 2000 models of the minivans, and 69 instances in which a wheel fell off, leading to 11 crashes and five injuries, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said. The studs, on which the wheel lug nuts are attached, have broken in 1,619 incidents, the agency said.

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HealthSouth's ex-chief executive, Richard Scrushy, first learned of an accounting fraud at his company March 17, a day before his then-chief financial officer secretly recorded him for the FBI, one of his lawyers said. HealthSouth's ex-CFO, William Owens, who later pleaded guilty to fraud, disclosed it to Scrushy two days before the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission accused Scrushy of orchestrating an inflation of company earnings, attorney Donald V. Watkins said.

The SEC said it may change proxy rules to help shareholders put their board candidates and policy proposals on company ballots as a way to expand corporate democracy. The SEC commissioners ordered a staff review of corporate elections and other shareholder votes to be completed by July 15, with new rules possible before company annual meetings in 2004.

A federal judge shielded Microsoft from class-action antitrust claims by consumers who bought computer programs directly from the world's largest software maker. The ruling by U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz is a defeat for customers who said the company used its Windows monopoly to overcharge for personal computer operating software and such applications as Microsoft Office. Motz refused to consolidate into one case lawsuits by purchasers of either operating systems or applications.

Hilton Hotels, seeking to eliminate the deep discounting of its rooms reserved over the Internet, has agreed to give Expedia access to its central reservation system in exchange for the online travel service's pledge not to undercut Hilton's own prices. As part of the two-year deal, Expedia also agreed to cut its usual 28 percent commission for each room sale to 18 percent for Hilton.

T-bill rates rose. The discount rate on three-month Treasury bills auctioned yesterday rose to 1.165 percent, from 1.135 percent last week. Rates on six-month bills rose to 1.175 percent, from 1.135 percent. The actual return to investors is 1.186 percent for three-month bills, with a $10,000 bill selling for $9,970.60, and 1.202 percent on a six-month bill selling for $9,940.60. Separately, the Federal Reserve said the average yield on one-year constant-maturity Treasury bills, a popular index for making changes in adjustable-rate mortgages, rose to 1.25 percent last week, from 1.19 percent the previous week.

Raytheon, the largest U.S. missile maker, won $236 million in contract extensions to make a long-distance artillery targeting system for the U.S. Army and air-to-air missiles for the Air Force.

Reliant Resources said its chairman and chief executive, Steve Letbetter, has resigned and been replaced by board member Joel Staff. Letbetter said he is leaving "to pursue new opportunities." The Houston-based power producer, which plans to quit speculative energy trading because of losses and improper transactions, averted bankruptcy March 31 by refinancing $5.9 billion in debt. Last month, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission accused Reliant of manipulating power prices during California's energy crisis.

Business inventories rose for a 10th straight month in February as snowstorms led to a drop in retail sales, the Commerce Department said. The 0.6 percent increase in stockpiles, to $1.6 trillion, followed a 0.3 percent rise in January. Business sales fell 1 percent, to $836.4 billion, the biggest decline in 15 months, after rising 1.3 percent in January.

Loews, controlled by financier Laurence A. Tisch, agreed to buy a 5,800-mile natural-gas pipeline from Williams for $1.05 billion. Loews, the owner of insurer CNA Financial and Lorillard Tobacco, will pay Williams $795 million in cash for Texas Gas Transmission and assume $250 million in debt. The pipeline can carry 2.8 billion cubic feet of gas a day from Texas and Louisiana to the Midwest and Southeast.

United Auto Workers President Ron Gettelfinger called for the resignation of the chairman and chief executive of Ullico, the union-owned life insurance company. Gettelfinger, speaking to a gathering of the Michigan AFL-CIO, said Robert Georgine should step down in the wake an investigation that raised allegations of insider trading among company directors and officers.

Gateway, whose market value has plunged 97 percent since December 1999, reduced sales for 2001, 2000 and 1999 because of changes in the way it accounts for warranties on its personal computers. Sales in 2001 were reduced by $10 million for the warranty change, spokesman Robert Sherbin said. Revenue was further reduced by $131 million for a change in accounting for fees Gateway earned for signing users to AOL Time Warner's Internet service.

INTERNATIONAL

Grundig, which rode Germany's post-World War II economic boom to become one of the best-known names in home electronics, started bankruptcy proceedings after rescue talks with foreign investors failed. The head of the company, which has struggled for years against competition from Asia, said that only new investment could save it from being broken up and sold in pieces to pay off creditors.

EARNINGS

IBM's first-quarter earnings rose 16 percent, to $1.38 billion, from a year earlier but narrowly missed Wall Street expectations even as acquisitions helped lift revenue by 11 percent, to $20.1 billion.

New York Times Co. said its first-quarter earnings rose 26 percent, to $68.8 million, because of an increase in advertising and circulation revenue and a decline in newsprint costs. The publisher of the New York Times and the Boston Globe said revenue rose 6.3 percent, to $783.7 million.

Compiled from reports by the Associated Press, Bloomberg News, Dow Jones News Service and Washington Post staff writers

Lockheed Martin said about a quarter of the workers at a Fort Worth plant that makes sections of the F/A-22 fighter jet as well as F-16s walked off the job to protest proposed cuts in health care. The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which represents 4,000 workers at the plant, voted to reject Lockheed's three-year contract proposal and to begin a strike immediately, a union spokesman said.