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Flying in Europe, Buying the weather
European airlines post strong June passenger levels. NBC and two private equity firms buy the Weather Channel. And a Hong Kong entrepreneur is willing to melt down almost everything in his golden palace, except for the toilet.
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EWS AT A GLANCE

Europe’s airlines report a good June

Several European airlines reported strong June passenger traffic numbers today, easing concerns about the effects of rising fuel costs and slumping consumer confidence on Europe’s airline industry. Air France-KLM, Europe’s largest carrier, said its traffic—measured in revenue per passenger per kilometer—was up 2.6 percent in June, while easyJet, the region’s No. 2 discount airline, posted a 19.5 percent jump. Ireland’s Aer Lingus also posted traffic gains. But analysts warned that a downturn could be just around the corner, since many of the June flights were booked months ago, when things looked rosier. British Airways reported a 3.7 percent drop in June traffic last week, blaming sour U.K. consumer sentiment. (MarketWatch)

NBC and partners buy the Weather Channel

NBC Universal and two private equity groups, Bain Capital and Blackstone, agreed to buy the Weather Channel from Landmark Communications for a reported price of just under $3.5 billion. The deal, reached after three weeks of talks, fell short of Landmark’s original $5 billion asking price. (The New York Times, free registration) The sale included Weather Channel properties, notably weather-dot-com, and the group will continue to operate as an independent business managed by NBC. At $3.5 billion, the deal would be one of the biggest private equity buys in the past year. The Weather Channel reaches more than 97 percent of all cable subscribers; about 40 million people visit the Web site each month. (Reuters)

Germany’s Fresenius enters U.S. generics market

German health care firm Fresenius SE agreed to buy U.S.-based APP Pharmaceuticals for at least $3.7 billion, allowing Fresenius Kabi—the world’s No. 1 dialysis provider—entry to the U.S. generics market. APP makes intravenous medications used by hospitals to treat cancer, infections, and pain, and for anesthesia. The $23-a-share price is 29 percent higher than APP’s July 3 closing price. (Bloomberg) Fresenius’ share dropped in German trading early today. “Strategically, the acquisition of APP would be a major step towards [Fresenius’] aim of becoming an IV generic player,” said Equinet brokers. But “it is not exactly a bargain.” (MarketWatch)

Sitting on a ton of gold

Hong Kong jeweler Lam Sai-wing has spent the past decade adorning a palace with six tons of gold, using the precious metal to make chandeliers, armchairs, suits of armor, and other household items. The golden palace showroom served Lam very well as a staple of tours from the mainland and a promotion for his jewelry business. But when the price of gold entered record territory, he started melting his palace down, using the tons of gold to fuel a big push into mainland China. But no matter how high gold gets, the 24-karat, fully functioning toilet stays intact. “I don’t care if gold hits $10,000 an ounce,” Lam says. “I’m not melting it down.” (The Wall Street Journal)

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