EU slaps Microsoft with record antitrust fine
The European Union fined Microsoft $1.35 billion for failing to comply with a 2004 antitrust ruling, in the largest fine ever imposed by the EU on a single firm. The original 2004 fine was $613 million. The EU had ordered Microsoft to lower the financial barrier for firms creating programs that interact with the Windows operating system. (AP in Yahoo! Finance) “I hope that today’s decision closes a dark chapter in Microsoft’s record of non-compliance,” said EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes. Microsoft said it had already resolved the issues in the complaint. (Bloomberg)
Toll Brothers slips, in step with housing market
Luxury homebuilder Toll Brothers reported a $96 million loss in its first quarter, including a $245.5 million write-down on housing developments. Without the write-offs, Toll Brothers would have earned $53.7 million. ( Revenue fell 23 percent for the quarter. Toll Brothers said “ceaseless talk of a recession,” coupled with mortgage woes, had kept people from buying homes. (MarketWatch) Some 28 percent of its customers canceled purchase contracts in the quarter, but that’s down from 39 percent in the previous quarter. “Lack of demand is what’s hurting all the homebuilders right now,” said analyst Dave Crossman at Kirr Marbach & Co. (Bloomberg)
Delta-Northwest merger hits rough patch
Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson said Delta would not pursue a merger with Northwest Airlines unless the deal met certain standards, including protecting the seniority of Delta pilots and other employees. Talks between the pilots of the two airlines have broken down over the seniority issue. (Detroit Free Press) Pilot seniority is still roiling the 2005 merger of U.S. Airways and America West. Anderson said Delta’s deal would also hinge on using the Delta name and keeping the combined airline headquartered in Atlanta. “This is something they want to put together but it is not a merger of absolute necessity,” said airline industry consultant Mike Boyd. (Reuters)
Life in the fast lane, if there is one
For $100 a year, air passengers can breeze through expedited security lines—if they’re at one of the 16 U.S. airports, out of 3,364, that offer the service. Congress authorized express lines in 2001, but the Transportation Security Administration abandoned the effort after determining it might not lead to greater security. Three private companies took over, and they are getting more airports to adopt Registered Traveler systems. Participating airports each get up to $225,000 a year from the companies. The 100,000-plus members are happy, too. “You start to get spoiled when you’re moving quickly though the airport,” says Atlanta consultant Phillip Merdinger. (The Wall Street Journal)