Business & Finance

Microsoft declined to comment directly on a new offensive by rivals and other concerned parties that could result in another lengthy investigation by the European Union on antitrust grounds. EU regulators have yet to wrap up their original probe of the software giant, which has been under way for more than three years. The latest offensive, a 260-page complaint filed by Sun Microsystems, Oracle Corp., AOL Time Warner, Eastman Kodak Co., cellphone giant Nokia, and others, alleges that Microsoft's programs "illegally eliminate competition" in the markets for hand-held computers, "smart" phones, music- and video-editing equipment, and e-mail software. An EU spokeswoman said the new complaint would be "examined separately" from the existing investigation.

Oil industry giant BP agreed in principle to pay $6.7 billion for a 50 percent interest in a new venture with two Russian partners. Unless it falls through - and sources close to the British company told the Financial Times it still could - the deal with Alfa Group and Access Industries-Renova would result in an alliance that produced more than 1 million barrels of crude a day and owned substantial stakes in five refineries plus a network of almost 2,200 gas stations in Russia and Ukraine.

Health products giant Johnson & Johnson agreed to pay $2.4 billion for Scios Inc., a Sunnyvale, Calif., biotechnology specialist. The acquisition will be the third in that sector in four years for Johnson & Johnson.

One day after announcing the $1.2 billion purchase of a medical equipment manufacturer, Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche Holding AG said it has agreed to sell its vitamins division for $2.1 billion. The buyer: DSM NV of Heerlen, Netherlands.

Sprint Corp. and BellSouth were ordered into arbitration by a court in Atlanta, to resolve their hiring dispute. Sprint wants to appoint Gary Forsee, BellSouth's vice chairman, as chief executive. BellSouth contends that would obligate him to reveal company secrets to a rival.

USCO Logistics said it will open a distribution center outside Indianapolis that's expected to employ 500 full-time and 200 seasonal workers. The warehouse will distribute goods for JC Penney. USCO of Hamden, Conn., also operates centers for Wal-Mart and Home Depot, among others.

America West Airlines said it is dropping Columbus, Ohio, as a hub - keeping two others - and will cut back daily flights there from 49 to 4 and eliminate 65 jobs. The carrier has posted losses for the past nine quarters.

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