The Call Goes to Nextel
Nextel won approval from the Federal Communications Commission for a long-sought spectrum swap, but at a price at least $1 billion higher than it had offered to pay. The swap is meant to stop Nextel cellular calls from interfering with police and fire radios. The FCC turned aside arguments from competitors and their allies in Congress that Nextel was getting a sweetheart deal, with at least one, Verizon Communications, vowing to challenge it in court. The swap must be approved by the General Accounting Office.
Paying for Oriental Shrimp
The Bush administration showed it was willing to get tough with China on trade. Citing a price decline of 32 percent on domestic shrimp, the Commerce Department said it would impose tariffs of up to 113 percent on shrimp imported from China and Vietnam. And the U.S. trade representative announced that China would rescind tax breaks to domestic makers of computer chips that violated world trade rules. China, meanwhile, rescinded Pfizer's patent for Viagra, adding to disputes over intellectual property.
Growing but Slowing?
There were more indications that economic growth slowed in the second quarter. Major retailers reported that same-store sales in June were up less than 3 percent over the previous year, with discounters such as Target posting the most disappointing sales numbers. Meanwhile, software firms such as Siebel Systems, Veritas and PeopleSoft warned that earnings would fall short of expectations. Yahoo stock fell 17 percent after the company announced that its sales and profit had merely doubled in the second quarter.
Over a Russian Barrel
Yukos, the Russian oil giant, teetered on the brink of bankruptcy, unable to meet a deadline for paying $3.4 billion in back taxes. The standoff helped push world oil prices back above $40 a barrel while scaring some Western investors in Russia, among them ChevronTexaco, which said it was concerned about the absence of the rule of law. Russian officials turned aside a settlement offer from Yukos's jailed founder, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, to turn over his stake in the company to the government.
In a move to blunt criticism over drug prices, Pfizer, the world's largest pharmaceutical maker, announced that it would offer a discount card essentially to anyone who doesn't have health insurance that covers prescription drugs. The discounts would range from 37 percent off retail price for families earning less than $45,000 to 15 percent off for those with higher incomes. Most Americans with prescription drug coverage already qualify for discounts negotiated for them by their insurers.