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Today in business: 5 things you need to know
Staples, OfficeMax, and Office Depot surge on merger talk, Nestle has a horsemeat scare, and more in our roundup of the business stories that are making news and driving opinion
Nestle's beef Buitoni brand showed traces of horse DNA in a recent test.
Nestle's beef Buitoni brand showed traces of horse DNA in a recent test. Facebook.com/BuitoniUSA

1. MERGER TALK LIFTS OFFICE SUPPLY GIANTS' STOCK
News of brewing mergers and buyouts sent shares in office-supply giants Staples, OfficeMax, and Office Depot soaring on Tuesday. OfficeMax skyrocketed by 24 percent and Office Depot rose by 14 percent after news that the two companies were engaged in advanced merger talks in a bid to fight off their larger rival, Staples, and other competitors. Staples also jumped by as much as 17 percent in early trading, after sinking by 14 percent over the last 12 months, following reports that it had been discussing a potential buyout with private-equity dealmakers. Taking the company private would cost more than $10 billion. [Wall Street Journal]
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2. MICROSOFT BEGINS TRANSITION FROM HOTMAIL TO OUTLOOK.COM
Good-bye, Hotmail. Microsoft announced that it will phase out its old email service by summer, automatically switching its 350 million users to the company's new service, Outlook.com. Microsoft introduced a beta version of the new message site in August. Since then, it has piled up 60 million users. This week, the software giant opened up Outlook.com to any user who wants to try it, part of the company's ongoing bid to woo people away from Google's Gmail. [NBC News]
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3. GOOGLE STOCK REACHES NEW HEIGHTS
Google shares hit yet another milestone early Tuesday, passing $800 a share following reports that the internet search giant might have a plan to start opening its own retail stores. The news sent Google's stock to $803, a rise of more than one percent, in the first morning of trading following the three-day Presidents' Day weekend. The company reached the $700-a-share mark more than five years ago. Investors were already pleased with market share gains by smartphones using Google's "Android ecosystem," said Raymond James analyst Aaron Kessler, although it's anybody's guess whether brick-and-mortar Google stores will really turn out to lift the company's fortunes significantly. [ABC News]
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4. NESTLE LATEST VICTIM IN EUROPE'S HORSEMEAT SCARE
Nestle became the latest company ensnared in a food scandal spreading across Europe on Tuesday, when it announced that it had removed beef pasta meals sold under its Buitoni brand from grocery stores in Italy and Spain after finding traces of horsemeat in batches of meat used to prepare the products. Just last week, Nestle — the world's biggest food company — had said its beef sources were not among those affected, but tests over the weekend showed traces of horse DNA in meat from one of its distributors. The scandal has triggered government investigations in several countries and a consumer backlash since last month. [Reuters]
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5. HACKERS HIJACK BURGER KING'S TWITTER ACCOUNT
Pranksters hacked Burger King's official Twitter account on Monday, and used it to tout the burger chain's arch rival, McDonald's. The hackers changed Burger King's profile page, adding a photo of McDonald's trademark golden arches, and a line claiming that Burger King "just got sold to McDonald's because the whopper flopped." Several vulgar tweets were also posted before Burger King executives could get the account frozen. McDonald's tweeted that it "had nothing to do with the hacking." [Yahoo News]

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