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Business digest

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 4, 2001


SUN LIFE TO BUY ASSETS: Sun Life Financial Services Inc., Canada's second-largest life insurer, agreed to buy part of Liberty Financial Cos. for $1.7-billion to gain a larger share of the U.S. insurance and savings business. Toronto-based Sun Life will get Liberty's Keyport Life Insurance Co. unit, which manages $19-billion in assets, and Independent Financial Marketing Group, which sells annuities and mutual funds to more than 50 banks. The acquisition is expected to boost Sun Life's U.S. business by 60 percent and raise its exposure to the money-management business.

MICROSOFT TAKES ON ALLEGED PIRACY: Microsoft Corp. has filed federal lawsuits charging companies in Florida and New Mexico with software piracy over sales of two trademarked office-suite packages that the maker claims are counterfeit and unlicensed. The suits were filed Monday at federal court in Miami a day before the industry's Business Software Alliance began a monthlong truce in Miami. Softwaremakers agree not to pursue penalties for unauthorized copying if businesses that aren't under investigation buy licenses for their software. The offer doesn't extend to the targets of the lawsuits: Global Spider Inc. of Miami, New Media Computer Corp. of Fort Lauderdale and Nico International LLC of Santa Fe, N.M.

GENUITY PLANS JOB CUTS: Genuity Inc. said it will lay off 800 employees after posting a loss of more than $290-million in the first quarter. The layoffs, representing 14 percent of the work force, will come from full-time and contract employees at all levels of the company, a spokesman said. Still, Genuity's loss of 30 cents per share on a pro-forma basis was 3 cents less than analysts expected. Genuity operates the second-largest dial-up access network in the United States. The company was the Internet unit of GTE Corp. and was shed as part of GTE's merger last year with Bell Atlantic Corp., creating Verizon Communications.

LUFTHANSA PILOTS STAGE WALKOUT: Lufthansa pilots walked off the job at midnight Thursday, starting a series of weekly strikes intended to pressure the German carrier to offer higher wages -- and raising the prospect of disruptions for thousands of passengers. The strikes will continue each Thursday for the next four weeks unless an agreement is reached, a union spokesman said. The action initially will be confined to flights departing from German airports.

RAYTHEON DOCUMENTS SUBPOENAED: Raytheon Co. said the Securities and Exchange Commission has subpoenaed documents related to the engineering and construction business it sold to Washington Group International last year. WGI, which has said the controversy may force it into bankruptcy, maintains the defense contractor withheld financial information about the division. WGI paid $50-million for the division last year and assumed, by Raytheon's calculations, $450-million in liabilities. WGI, formerly known as Morrison Knudsen, maintains the liabilities were as high as $700-million. Raytheon Class B shares fell $1.90 to $27.75.

PILOTS BOARD OKAYS CONTRACT: The union council representing Delta Air Lines pilots has approved a proposed contract agreement with the airline, clearing the way for the measure to be sent to the full membership for a vote. The council's support, by an 18-4 margin, avoids the immediate threat of a strike at the nation's third-largest air carrier. A vote by all 9,800 pilots is scheduled to conclude by June 20.

RUBBERMAID SLASHING 3,000 JOBS: Newell Rubbermaid Inc. plans to cut 3,000 jobs, or about 6 percent of its work force, blaming continuing weak worldwide economic conditions. Rubbermaid disclosed plans for the job cuts as it reported its first-quarter earnings fell 50 percent to $38.4-million, and it warned that its second-quarter and full-year 2001 earnings will fall short of analysts' expectations.

LUCENT SCIENTISTS CHARGED WITH ESPIONAGE: Two Lucent Technologies scientists and a businessman were charged with passing company secrets to a government-owned telecommunications firm in China. The three men, all natives of China, are accused of a "complicated scheme of corporate espionage" to steal Lucent voice and data technology software to set up a joint venture with Datang Telecom Technology Co. Ltd., U.S. Attorney Robert Cleary said. Cleary said he has no evidence that Datang broke the law.

TIMES, EBAY VENTURE FINALIZED: EBay Inc. and the St. Petersburg Times have finalized a venture that will allow sellers who list items with the Internet auction company also to advertise in the paper's classified section. Beginning May 18, eBay users listing items in the Tampa Bay area will be offered classified ads that run in the Friday, Saturday and Sunday editions of the newspaper, said Ronald Dupont, Times general manager of Web publications. EBay this week started a similar venture with the (Minneapolis) Star-Tribune.

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