JAPANInterest Rate RaisedBank of Japan raised its benchmark interest rate to 0.5 percent, encouraged by signs of robust economic growth. The central bank last raised its key rate to 0.25 percent from zero in July, the first increase in six years. BRITAIN BP CEO Gets $4 Million BonusBP paid departing chief executive John Browne shares worth about $4 million in an annual performance bonus that covers the time when BP experienced a refinery explosion and pipeline leaks. BP said its bonus plan granted Browne 380,668 shares Feb. 15, "in respect of the performance period 2004-2006." He was awarded 30 percent of the maximum number of shares he could have received.
AVIATIONBritish Airways Orders 4 Boeing JetsBritish Airways said it ordered four Boeing 777-200 Extended Range aircraft to bolster its fleet. The aircraft will be delivered in 2009, the airline said. British Airways said it also took options for four more aircraft for delivery the following year. Boeing said it was working with British Airways to finalize the order.
MERGERS & ACQUISITIONSApollo Eyes British Real Estate ChainApollo Management, a U.S. buyout firm, said it may offer nearly $2 billion in cash and stock for Countrywide, Britain's largest chain of real estate brokers. Apollo said it planned to offer $9.86 in cash per Countrywide share, plus shares in Rightmove, a company in which Countrywide holds a stake. But Apollo cautioned "there can be no certainty that a formal offer for Countrywide will ultimately be forthcoming."
Last month, Countrywide shareholders rejected a takeover offer from 3i Group.
E.U. Clears Tobacco DealEuropean Union antitrust regulators cleared Japan Tobacco's proposed $14.7 billion purchase of British cigarette maker Gallaher Group, saying the deal did not pose competition problems on the European market. The deal would reportedly be the biggest Japanese overseas acquisition.
Deutsche Boersesaid its 2006 profit rose 56 percent, to $879 million. Revenue rose 14 percent, to $2.43 billion. The exchange, which did not release fourth-quarter results, said earnings were higher because of more trading and tighter fiscal policies.