Charter recommits to Bright House deal

Charter Communications said it was going ahead with its $10.4 billion deal for Bright House Networks, signaling the start of a new push to consolidate the country's cable operators. The transaction was previously agreed to in conjunction with Comcast's proposed takeover of Time Warner Cable, but was contingent on that deal's completion. After that deal fell apart, Charter and Bright House had an exclusive 30-day negotiating period, which was set to expire this week. The two companies said Monday that they were committed to completing the transaction on the same economic and governance terms as the original agreement, which was announced in March. The deal is not yet signed, and either party could walk away.

Owner of Ann Taylor chain sold for $2.16B

The Ascena Retail Group is buying the owner of Ann Taylor and Loft in a deal valued at about $2.16 billion. Ann Taylor will join a stable of retail clothing stores owned by Ascena, including Lane Bryant, Justice, Dress Barn and Cacique, giving the combined company annual sales of $7.3 billion. A push for the sale of the Ann Inc. began in earnest last August when major shareholders Engine Capital and its partner Red Alder urged the board to put the company on the block. The retailer had suffered same-store sales declines in three of its past quarters as up-and-coming fast-casual clothing chains ate up market share.

$8B deal helps Endo grow in generic drugs

Drugmaker Endo International PLC is climbing toward the top of the steadily consolidating generic medicine business with a deal to buy Par Pharmaceutical Holdings Inc. for about $8.05 billion. The deal would enable Dublin-based Endo to leapfrog from No. 10 to No. 5 in U.S. generic drug sales barely five years after its first foray into generics. It appears to be the latest maneuver in a battle for pricing power that pits drugmakers against payers such as insurers and pharmacy benefit managers. Recent consolidation has reduced the number of generic drug manufacturers and is driving shortages — and accompanying price spikes — of some generic drugs.

Ruling gives Apple advantage over Samsung

A partial court win for Apple gives the U.S. tech company more leverage for an ultimate agreement it may seek with Samsung Electronics to end a fight over mobile phones that began under Steve Jobs, who said the South Korean company copied his designs. Samsung used patented designs and two features of the Apple iPhone in older models of its devices, a U.S. appeals court ruled in upholding about $548 million in damages for the Cupertino, Calif.-based company. The court said the iPhone's appearance that Apple sought to protect is as much about function as beauty, and isn't eligible for perpetual coverage under U.S. trademark law. That could strip about $382 million from the original judgment. The decision gives Apple an advantage in any negotiations with Samsung.

Starbucks signs music deal with Spotify

In the heyday of the CD, Starbucks was a leading outlet for the music industry to sell its new releases. Now, in the age of streaming, the chain of coffee shops has a new partner: Spotify. Starbucks, which operates more than 7,000 coffee shops in the United States, announced a deal to work with Spotify, the subscription streaming service, to produce playlists for its stores and promote Spotify at its locations. The move comes two months after Starbucks stopped selling CDs in its stores. The partnership, which the two companies said would begin at Starbucks stores in the fall, will let Starbucks employees and customers pick the songs played at the shops, and incorporate Spotify into Starbucks's mobile app, which Starbucks said was used by 16 million people in the United States.

Wanted: Butchers, bakers, mechanics

Sorry about this, candlestick makers, but employers aren't looking for you. Companies do, however, need butchers, bakers, mechanics and electricians. Jobs in those trades top the list of the hardest-to-fill positions in the United States, followed by drivers and teachers, according to Manpower's survey of employers conducted during 2015's first quarter. These positions also are the hardest to fill globally, for the fourth consecutive year. Globally, the survey included responses from more than 41,700 employers in 42 countries and territories. After those three, the other seven U.S. jobs where there are talent shortages are sales representatives, secretaries/receptionists, managers/executives, nurses, technicians, accounting and financial staff and engineers.

Surprise drop in homebuilder confidence

Confidence among U.S. homebuilders unexpectedly fell in May, reflecting cooling sales and slower buyer traffic, a sign the residential real estate market will take time to gain momentum. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo sentiment gauge dropped to 54 this month from 56 in April, figures from the group showed. Readings greater than 50 mean more respondents report good market conditions. The drop in confidence helps explain why builders such as D.R. Horton Inc. are trying to offer more lower-priced homes in a bid to attract customers waiting to see if the economy rebounds from a first-quarter slump. At the same time, construction chiefs became more optimistic about the future as still-low mortgage rates underpin the market.

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