Merck Settles, Rio Tinto Plays Hard To Get

Merck agrees to settle 27,000 Vioxx suits for almost $5 billion. Mining giant Rio Tinto rebuffs a takeover bid from larger rival BHP Billiton, and its shares jump. And a group of loyal Badgers pays $85 million to NOT name something.


Merck reaches broad Vioxx settlement

Merck has agreed to pay $4.85 billion to settle 27,000 lawsuits related to its recalled painkiller Vioxx, according to published reports. (The New York Times, free registration required) Merck said previously that it would contest all suits, and it has won 11 of the 16 cases that went to trial—including four of the five cases considered likely predictors of future trial outcomes. (The Wall Street Journal) The settlement covers about 85 percent of outstanding Vioxx suits. “They’ve done the calculations and found that buying certainty on these claims for $5 billion is the best way to go,” said attorney Michael Kelly, who has represented other drugmakers in product-liability cases. (Bloomberg)

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Rio Tinto soars after BHP bid

Shares of mining giant Rio Tinto shot up 15.4 percent in Australia this morning after it rejected a $142 billion unsolicited takeover offer from BHP Billiton, the world’s largest miner. Rio shares closed up 22 percent in London yesterday. (AP in Yahoo! Finance) Analysts predicted that the bid would spark a global bidding war that could easily reach above $170 billion. (Reuters) “It’s going to be hard for Rio Tinto to remain independent,” said mining analyst Wayne Atwell. “The pressure’s now on for Rio Tinto to either find a new partner or come to terms with BHP.” (The Wall Street Journal) Separately, Rio Tinto completed its $38.1 billion acquisition of Canada’s Alcan yesterday. (MarketWatch)

Nationwide WiMax deal falls apart

Sprint Nextel and Clearwire are ending their plans to build a nationwide high-speed wireless network using WiMax technology, The Wall Street Journal reported. The scrapped partnership is an especially tough blow for Clearwire, which has staked its future on the faster, longer range wireless technology. But it will also negatively impact Intel, Motorola, Samsung, and other companies that are supporting WiMax. The already complex Sprint-Clearwire pact fell apart after Sprint CEO Gary Forsee left the company last month. (The Wall Street Journal) Sprint, which had planned to invest $5 billion in WiMax, is under pressure to cut spending following a year of subscriber losses. (Reuters)

A popular push for hidden treasure

There is still a lot of undiscovered treasure out there—the Holy Grail, a legendary Da Vinci mural, sunken Spanish gold ships—and technology is making it easier for people to hunt for it. GPS technology, wireless communications, access to satellite photos, and other tools previously unavailable to the masses have sparked a new era of privately funded treasure hunts. But credibility can still be an issue. Roger “Woody” Peard, 53, of Lake Tahoe is looking to raise $30,000 to hunt for Amelia Earhart’s plane, which he thinks collided with another plane and is buried in the Marshall Islands at a Japanese military base. “Nobody believes me,” he says. (The Wall Street Journal)

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