Business & Finance

Microsoft's problems with alleged antitrust violations deepened Wednesday as investigators raided its headquarters in Tokyo, opening a new front in a legal battle that began in the US and then spread to Europe. Japan's Fair Trade Commission said it suspects the software giant of imposing inappropriate and restrictive conditions on makers of personal computers there in licensing them to use its Windows XP operating system. Next month, the European Commission is expected to announce whether it will fine Microsoft millions of dollars for abuse of its market position, unless an out-of-court settlement is reached first.

Saying it has lost confidence in Walt Disney Co. chief Michael Eisner's "strategic vision," the nation's largest public pension fund called for him to resign. The California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) said it planned to withhold its votes for Eisner's reelection at the company's annual meeting next week. CalPERS is the 29th-largest holder of Disney stock.

A net loss of $3.3 billion for 2003 was posted by HVB Group, the parent of HypoVereinsbank, Germany's second largest. It said it will pay no dividend to shareholders for the second consecutive year. Chief executive Dieter Rampl also confirmed plans for a much-anticipated offering of new shares of stock, aimed at raising $3.75 billion. Most of HVB's loss was attributed to a write-down in the value of investments in its Bank Austria subsidiary, in financial-services giant Allianz AG, and in reinsurance industry leader Munich Re.

Kimberly-Clark Corp., the maker of Kleenex and other personal hygiene products, said it expects to propose to its board this spring a spin-off of its Neenah paper and Canadian timber and pulp businesses. If approved, the new company would be publicly traded and would be one of Kimberly-Clark's largest suppliers of raw materials. Kimberly-Clark is based in Irving, Texas.

Unions representing hotel/restaurant and textile industry workers were expected to announce a merger Thursday. Fusing the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees and the Union of Needletrades, Industrial, and Textile Employees would give them more than a half-million members. Both draw heavily from minority and immigrant ranks.

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