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Google, the most widely used search engine on the Internet, was keeping the financial world in suspense as the Monitor went to press about whether it would announce an initial public offering - and, if so, how the stock would be sold. Citing "people close to the company," the Financial Times reported that even some decisionmakers were "in the dark" about whether an automated online auction system would be used to set the share price and determine who would buy. Speculation on a Google IPO, perhaps the most anticipated in the US in nine years, has ranged as high as $3 billion.

The world's No. 1 maker of flat display panels, LG Philips LCD, confirmed a published report that it would seek to raise $1 billion through an IPO in the third quarter. The Financial Times said the company needs cash to pay for increasing manufacturing capacity amid surging demand for liquid-crystal panels used in computer screens and new-generation TV sets. The company, based in Seoul, is a joint venture between LG Electronics of South Korea and Philips Electronics of the Netherlands.

Embattled Royal Dutch/Shell announced another move to shore up sagging investor confidence: a $2 billion buy-back of its own stock. Such a strategy, already implemented by its biggest European rival, BP, would reduce the number of shares traded - thus returning more profits to current stockholders. The company posted a first- quarter net profit of $4.4 billion despite the heavy blow to its reputation from admitting that proven oil and natural gas reserves had been overestimated.

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Nortel Networks Corp., a leading maker of telecommunications equipment, fired chief executive Frank Dunn and two other senior managers Wednesday and said it would restate its 2003 earnings. Another four executives were put on paid leave, pending a review of the company's finances for the past three years. Earnings dating back to 2000 already have been restated once - last October.

Capital One Financial Corp. advised employees to expect a deep round of cost cuts over the next two years, although a spokeswoman refused to comment on published reports that they'd involve more than 2,500 layoffs. The McLean, Va., company said in a message obtained by news services that its costs were 20 percent higher than those of such rivals as American Express and Citibank.

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