Business & Finance

Microsoft announced a blockbuster payout to shareholders Tuesday that analysts said would focus attention on its stagnant stock. The software giant said it would dip into its substantial reserves and distribute about $75 billion over the next four years. The company, which is expected in some financial circles to post the slowest annual sales growth in its 29-year history, will split the distribution between dividends and a stock-buyback plan. Microsoft has come under increasing pressure in recent years do something with the billions it has amassed, notably from sales of its Windows operating system and Office software.

Charles Schwab will return as chief executive of the discount brokerage that bears his name, the company announced. It said Tuesday that David Pottruck was leaving the post as it tries to rejuvenate its business in the face of increasingly tough competition from rivals that offer lower commissions. Schwab, who remains as chairman, shared the post with Pottruck for five years until the latter was named sole CEO 14 months ago.

Turkish Airlines became the latest carrier from the Middle East to announce a major purchase of new planes - among them 36 from Airbus and 15 from Boeing. The expansion of its fleet will be the largest in the company's history and was decided upon after it made a $200 million profit last year. No details were offered on the cost of the new planes, but Turkey's Anatolia news agency estimated the deal with Airbus alone at $1.5 billion. On Tuesday, Etihad Airways of Abu Dhabi placed a $7 billion order with Airbus and Emirates Airline of Dubai bought $2.96 billion worth of planes from Boeing.

Eckerd Corp., the drugstore chain, will lay off 1,400 managerial and support personnel at its Largo, Fla., headquarters beginning Aug. 1 as it prepares to change owners, according to a notice posted Monday by Florida's Agency for Workforce Innovation. Spokesmen for CVS Corp. and Jean Coutu Group, which recently acquired Eckerd's more than 2,800 stores in separate deals, declined to comment or were unavailable. How many jobs might be transferred to those companies was not immediately clear.

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