Oracle chief executive Lawrence J. Ellison testified that the company is leaning toward lowering its $7.7 billion, $21-a-share bid for rival software maker PeopleSoft. Ellison's testimony was heard at the trial of a lawsuit aimed at eliminating PeopleSoft's takeover defenses. Asked why Oracle didn't just walk away from the takeover bid it launched in June 2003 because of PeopleSoft's furious resistance, Ellison responded in the present tense that the combination is "an important business move for us." Oracle renewed the $21-a-share offer Thursday.

Copyright Case Appealed to High Court

Record and movie companies asked the Supreme Court to overturn a ruling that said makers of peer-to-peer file-sharing software aren't responsible for copyright infringement by their users. In August, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld a ruling that cleared Streamcast Networks and Grokster of liability. The trial court ruling prompted entertainment companies to sue individual file sharers.

MORE NEWS

A class action against Wal-Mart Stores in the state of Washington may proceed, a court ruled. The decision allows 40,000 current and former Wal-Mart employees to participate in the suit. Alleged abuses include off-the-clock work for which employees were not paid, missed meal and rest breaks, and altered time records.

The Securities and Exchange Commission has escalated its informal, nonpublic inquiry of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts to a formal investigation, the company said. Such investigations require a vote by SEC members, which allows the commission staff to require testimony from witnesses and gives them the ability to subpoena documents. The SEC notified the doughnut maker of the informal inquiry about its franchise reacquisitions and future earnings guidance in July.

Allstate is accused of discrimination against older employees in a lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC alleges that the nation's second-largest auto and home insurer treated older agents unfairly when it fired 6,200 employees in 2000.

Canon was ordered by a federal jury to pay $34.7 million to St. Clair Intellectual Property Consultants, which sued it for infringing on four digital camera patents. Last year, a jury ordered Sony to pay $25 million to St. Clair for infringing on the same patents.

Sirius Satellite Radio plans to raise $290 million by offering 25 million common shares for $3.87 each and $200 million of convertible notes due 2011. Morgan Stanley is the sole underwriter for the offerings, which are expected to close on Oct. 13.

INTERNATIONAL

Citigroup sued in an Italian court complaining of unfair treatment by Parmalat Finanziaria after the dairy giant's bankruptcy filing. A debt-to-equity plan recognizes only $2.5 million owed to Citigroup, of $667.5 million in credit claims accepted as part of the Italian procedures that govern the Parmalat case, the U.S. firm charged.

French competition authorities are investigating supermarket retailer Carrefour and Danish toymaker Lego Systems as part of a probe into alleged price fixing in the French toy market in 2002 and early 2003. Lego has acknowledged breaches of internal company guidelines and replaced its management in France.

British Airways is the latest airline to raise fares in response to rising oil prices. The carrier said it will add $36 to the price of a long-haul round trip, effective Thursday. Air France, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Deutsche Lufthansa, Alitalia, Sibir Airlines and Swiss International Air Lines previously raised their prices.

RECALL

Dell recalled 4.4 million notebook computer power adapters because they may catch fire. It asked customers to contact the company for a free replacement. The adapters, which were provided with some Dell Latitude, Precision and Inspiron laptops from 1998 to 2002, were made by Delta Electronics of Taipei, which also manufactured 225,000 power adapters recalled by IBM on Sept. 2. More information is available from Dell at 800-418-8590.

EARNINGS

General Electric reported an 11 percent increase in third-quarter profit, to $4.05 billion, over the comparable period last year. Revenue rose 15 percent, to $38.3 billion. GE said there was double-digit earnings growth in eight of its 11 businesses, led by entertainment, health care and transportation.

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