Business Highlights

By: The Associated Press
May 23, 2016 Updated: May 23, 2016 at 4:30 pm
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Bayer AG bids $62 billion for crops and seeds specialist Monsanto.

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Bayer wants to buy Monsanto for $62 billion, hooking up the German chemical and drug company with the St. Louis-based producer of seeds and weed-killers.

The deal would create a global giant in agriculture technology touching much of global food production through the development of seeds and pesticides.

Bayer says that combining research and development as well as product lines would make the two companies worth more together than separately. The combined company would have higher earnings and save $1.5 billion a year by eliminating overlapping functions and overhead.

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Appeals court reverses fraud finding against Bank of America

NEW YORK (AP) — Bank of America Corp. was not liable for fraud and subject to a penalty of over $1.2 billion for its actions before the economy collapsed in 2008 despite a jury's finding to the contrary, a federal appeals court ruled Monday.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal in Manhattan said there was insufficient evidence for a jury to conclude at a 2013 trial that mail and wire fraud was committed by the bank's Countrywide Financial unit in late 2007 and 2008 when it passed along mortgages to government housing agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Prosecutors had alleged that the bank sold mortgages at break-neck speed without regard to quality as the economy hurtled toward one of the nation's worst financial downturns.

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Boeing sells 100 planes worth $11.3B to Vietnam's VietJet

NEW YORK (AP) — Boeing Co. is selling 100 aircraft worth about $11.3 billion at list prices to Vietnam's VietJet as the airline seeks to expand its international and domestic flights.

Aircraft in deals of this size are typically sold at a discount to list prices, however.

Boeing Co. said Monday that the planes, all of which are 737 Max 200 models, will be delivered between 2019 and 2023.

It was the single largest airplane purchase by Vietnam, according to the Chicago company.

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Viacom CEO sues to be restored to Redstone trust

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Viacom's embattled chief executive sued Monday to be restored as a director and trustee to entities that control Viacom Inc. and CBS Corp. after a weekend move by media mogul Sumner Redstone stripped him of the positions.

Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman and lawyer George Abrams — who was also stripped of identical roles — filed the lawsuit in Norfolk probate court in Massachusetts, saying Redstone was "not mentally competent" and that he is being manipulated by his once-estranged daughter, Shari Redstone.

The question is key for Dauman. Without a board seat on theater chain National Amusements Inc., which controls 80 percent of the voting stock of Viacom and CBS, or a trustee seat in the trust which will receive the chain's assets when Redstone dies, his position as Viacom's CEO is in jeopardy.

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Tribune rejects second Gannett bid; sets the stage for talks

NEW YORK (AP) — Tribune Publishing rejected a second takeover bid from USA Today owner Gannett, but did say Monday that it was open to further talks.

Gannett last week raised its per-share bid for the owner of the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and other newspapers to $15, from $12.25. Gannett, based in McLean, Virginia, put the total value of the revised offer at about $864 million, which includes some $385 million in debt.

The Chicago publisher called the offer inadequate, but on Monday it revealed that it would sell 4.7 million shares to a California entrepreneur for $70.5 million, which on a per-share basis is exactly what Gannett is offering.

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Eurozone economy displaying mixed signals

LONDON (AP) — Mixed economic signals emerged Monday about the state of the eurozone economy.

Though a closely watched survey of business activity pointed to waning economic growth following a strong start to the year, another report pointed to consumer confidence holding up, crucial for the region's prospects over the coming months.

Most forecasters are penciling in a slowdown in the economy over the rest of the year as many of the factors that previously buoyed growth have largely played out, such as the export-boosting fall in the value of the euro. The region also faces a number of risks from beyond its borders, such as the British vote on June 23 on whether to leave the European Union and ongoing uncertainty over China's economy.

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EU lifts suicide warning on Pfizer's smoking-cessation pill

Europe's main drug regulator has lifted a 7-year-old warning about possible suicidal risks from Chantix, Pfizer's smoking-cessation pill.

The European Medicines Agency's ruling could boost sales of Champix, the drug's name in Europe, by reassuring doctors and would-be ex-smokers that the prescription medicine doesn't have dangerous psychiatric side effects.

The EMA's decision, announced Monday by New York-based Pfizer Inc., comes after an 8,144-patient, 16-country study found users had no elevated risk of suicides, suicide attempts or suicidal thoughts.

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Ryanair posts record 2016 profit, sees lower summer fares

DUBLIN (AP) — European budget carrier Ryanair has posted record full-year profits and passenger figures, and expects both to hit new highs this summer amid rapid growth and declining fares.

Monday's results for the year ending March 31 showed the Dublin-based airline strengthening on every front. Net profit before exceptional gains rose 43 percent to 1.24 billion euros ($1.4 billion) and the percentage of seats sold rose 5 points to 93 percent. Total sales rose 16 percent to 6.54 billion euros and the overall number of passengers for the year rose 18 percent to 106.4 million.

Chief Executive Michael O'Leary says Ryanair expects average fares to fall around 6 percent this summer and even more in winter amid increased competition and well-hedged fuel costs.

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EU online shoppers shy away from buying outside home country

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union's borderless single market is expanding only sluggishly into cyberspace, amid consumer concerns about security and whether it's possible to return unwanted purchases, according to a new report published Monday.

The EU strives to create a seamless market across the bloc's 28 countries. But while 53 percent of European citizens now shop online, only 16 percent buy goods or services from another country, the European Digital Progress Report said.

The report also showed smaller companies lagging behind their larger competitors.

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The Dow Jones industrial average fell 8.01 points, or 0.05 percent, to 17,492.93. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 4.28 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,048.04 and the Nasdaq composite lost 3.78 points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,765.78.

Benchmark U.S. crude shed 33 cents to $48.08 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, fell 37 cents to $48.35 a barrel in London. In other energy commodities, wholesale gasoline rose 1 cent to $1.65 a gallon, heating oil fell 1 cent to $1.48 a gallon and natural gas fell 1 cent to $2.06 per thousand cubic feet.