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Today in business: 5 things you need to know
A giant airline merger is in the works, a shareholder sues Apple, and more in our roundup of the business stories that are making news and driving opinion
A US Airways and American Airlines merger would create the world's largest airline.
A US Airways and American Airlines merger would create the world's largest airline. Tim Boyle/Getty Images

1. AMERICAN AIRLINES, US AIRWAYS, CLOSE IN ON MERGER
American Airlines and US Airways are reportedly in the final stages of a merger agreement that would create the world's largest airline. If the deal is completed, it would represent the culmination of years of consolidation in the industry, with airlines joining forces to cut costs and elbow out price-cutting competitors. With a merger, there would be only three other major airlines in the U.S.: United Continental, Delta, and Southwest. [Wall Street Journal]
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2. MAJOR SHAREHOLDER SUES APPLE
Greenlight Capital, a hedge fund that owns a significant stake in Apple, on Thursday sued the tech giant, saying it should disburse more of its huge hoard of cash to shareholders. The hedge fund's chief, David Einhorn, is demanding that Apple deal with its "cash problem" by giving preferred stock with a generous yield to shareholders, a move that would boost the stock's value. It's just the latest sign of discord at Apple, which has seen its share price drop over concerns that the company's growth is slowing. [Reuters]
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3. EUROPEAN LEADERS MEET TO HASH OUT BUDGET
European Union officials descended on Brussels for a two-day summit to produce a budgetary framework for the union for the next seven years. The forum is expected to be a contentious affair, with more euro-skeptic countries like Britain demanding increased budget cuts. [Irish Times]
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4. SONY ANNOUNCES SURPRISE LOSS
Sony announced a loss for the fourth quarter, surprising analysts who had expected the struggling electronics giant to receive a boost from a weak yen. It is the eighth straight quarter that Sony has posted a loss, though the company's share price has recently climbed in anticipation of the debut of the PlayStation 4 later this month. [Bloomberg]
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5. NEW YORK TIMES CO. REPORTS STRONG PROFIT
The New York Times Company reported a profit of $177 million in the fourth quarter, up significantly from $59 million the previous year. The jump was attributed to asset sales and subscription growth, even as advertising revenue declined. [New York Times]

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