The news at a glance

Apple: An ailing Jobs goes on leave; Antitrust: Microsoft vs. Europe, round two; Retailing: Circuit City shorts out; Publishing: Times Co. finds an angel; Mortgages: JPMorgan expands mortgage program

Apple: An ailing Jobs goes on leave

Apple CEO Steve Jobs last week said his health problems were “more complex” than he’d initially thought, prompting him to leave the company temporarily while he receives treatment, said Jessica Mintz in the Associated Press. Just a week earlier, Jobs had “tried to reassure investors” that his weight loss was caused by an easily treated hormone deficiency. Neither he nor Apple offered any specifics about his current ailment, but Jobs, 53, had surgery for pancreatic cancer in 2004, and in recent sightings he has appeared strikingly gaunt. Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook, 48, will serve as acting CEO until Jobs’ scheduled return in June.

After “two contradictory statements in two weeks,” Apple still won’t come clean about Jobs’ health, said Therese Poletti in Jobs is Apple’s guiding visionary, so

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his health is not just a private matter. The company’s board owes the investor community full disclosure—even if the fiercely private Jobs wishes otherwise. At the very least, Apple should “tell investors whether his pancreatic cancer has returned, which is what everyone is worried about.”

Antitrust: Microsoft vs. Europe, round two

The European Union last week accused Microsoft of competing unfairly to ensure the dominance of its Internet Explorer browser, said Richard Waters and Nikki Tait in the Financial Times. The complaint “reopens an old battle” between Microsoft and European regulators. In 2004, Microsoft paid $2 billion to settle a previous antitrust complaint. By including Explorer in the company’s near-ubiquitous Windows operating system, EU antitrust officials say, Microsoft unfairly blocks the access of other browsers to the Windows desktop. Sixty percent of Europe’s computers use Explorer.

Retailing: Circuit City shorts out

Circuit City said last week it would close its remaining 567 stores and lay off 34,000 employees, said Michael Felberbaum and Vinnee Tong in the Associated Press. It’s “the largest retailer to fall victim to the expanding financial crisis.” Talks with potential acquirers broke down last week, leaving liquidation “the only possible path for our company,” said acting CEO James Marcum. Liquidation sales will begin this week, and the last store will close in March.

Publishing: Times Co. finds an angel

Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim will invest up to $250 million in the New York Times Co., “helping to shore up the publishing company’s struggling finances,” said Andrew Ross Sorkin in The New York Times. The company has hundreds of millions of dollars of debt coming due in the next two years and has been scrambling to raise cash. In exchange for his loan, Slim will receive warrants convertible into New York Times stock. With a 6.9 percent ownership stake, Slim is already the Times Co.’s largest outside shareholder.

Mortgages: JPMorgan expands mortgage program

Banking giant JPMorgan this week launched “the most ambitious effort to date to lower monthly mortgage payments for borrowers,” said Robin Sidel in The Wall Street Journal. JPMorgan already has a 2-month-old program to reduce interest rates and extend maturity dates for residential mortgages that it owns, but now the bank will expand the program to include loans that the bank originated and sold to other investors. A bank spokesman said JPMorgan “believes it can legally modify the ‘vast majority’ of investor-owned mortgages” without approval from the investors.

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