World business briefs

  • Updated: April 14, 2014 - 8:02 PM
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FILE - This July 22, 2009 file photo shows a Windows XP logo on a Hewlett Packard Laptop at a Best Buy in Mountain View, Calif. On Tuesday, April 8, 2014, Microsoft will end support for its still popular Windows XP. With an estimated 30 percent of businesses and consumers still using the 12-year-old operating system, the move could put everything from the data of major financial institutions to the identities of everyday people in danger if they donít find a way to upgrade soon. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)

The U.S. Justice Department handed out its biggest penalty to date for contaminating the environment. Anadarko Petroleum is to pay $5.2 billion, the bulk of which will go to cleaning up sites contaminated by an energy company it bought in 2006. The ­company was sued by the federal government, 11 states and the Navajo nation; the plaintiffs had originally sought $25 billion. Anadarko’s fine is even bigger than the $4 billion slapped on BP for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Procter & Gamble sold three of its pet-food brands, including Iams, to Mars, a food group mostly known for its chocolate bars, for $2.9 billion. It was A.G. Lafley’s first big strategic move since returning to P & G as chief executive a year ago.

A federal jury in Louisiana ordered Takeda, a Japanese drug company, to pay $6 billion in punitive damages for covering up the risks of bladder cancer from a diabetes medicine. Eli Lilly, which marketed the treatment, was ordered to pay $3 billion. The combined $9 billion in damages shocked most observers, but it will probably be reduced substantially on appeal.

Ranbaxy, a troubled Indian maker of generic drugs, was bought by Sun Pharmaceutical in a $3.2 billion deal that will ­create India’s biggest drug company. Ranbaxy has come under investigation in the United States over its manufacturing processes, causing a headache for its biggest shareholder, Japan’s Daiichi Sankyo. Ranbaxy hopes to have found a remedy by selling itself to Sun Pharma.

Debate raged over whether Brendan Eich should have stepped down as Mozilla’s CEO because of a political contribution he made in 2008 in support of a ban on gay marriage in California. His appointment as chief executive of the firm behind the Firefox Web browser prompted a backlash from some gay-rights activists and he resigned after just two weeks in the job. On Monday, Mozilla appointed Chris Beard the interim chief executive.

An intriguing takeover battle in France reached a conclusion when Vivendi chose to sell its SFR mobile-telecoms ­business to Numericable, a cable operator, for $18.5 billion in cash. Backed by Patrick Drahi, a tech entrepreneur, Numericable was the preferred bidder, but that did not stop Bouygues, a blue-chip ­company that had the backing of the government and the unions, from sweetening its offer three times during the ­takeover talks.

A software flaw that could leave two-thirds of the world’s ­websites vulnerable to attack by hackers was uncovered by researchers and Google. The “Heartbleed” bug was discovered in the OpenSSL encryption software used by many companies and governments to make their websites more secure.

Microsoft issued its last security update for the Windows XP operating system, which it is not supporting any more because the software has nearly reached the grand old age of 13. Windows XP still powers 28 percent of the world’s PCs. The British and Dutch governments are paying Microsoft to extend support for XP in their IT departments, as are some firms and banks; 95 percent of the world’s ATMs run on the system.

Political economy

Investor demand was very high for the first long-term ­sovereign bond from Greece in four years. Borrowing costs for periphery economies in the eurozone have declined sharply. Yields on Italian and Spanish 10-year government bonds are now around 3.2 percent, about half what they were a couple of years ago. The yield on existing Greek 10-year bonds dropped to below 6 percent last week; two years ago it was nearly 40 percent.

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