Business & Finance

Microsoft was threatened with heavy new fines by the European Union on grounds that it still hasn't made access to its server software blueprints easy enough for competitors. The EU imposed a record $665 million penalty last March after ruling that the software giant was guilty of monopolistic practices on the Continent. Among other provisions, the EU order demanded that Microsoft share the code for its Windows operating system with rivals so that their products can more easily communicate in networking systems that run on Windows. Microsoft responded with a licensing plan that would charge royalties of up to $600 per server, which antitrust regulators have decided is too expensive, an EU spokesman said Friday. He said regulators could fine Microsoft as much as 5 percent of its global sales per day until the company shows satisfactory compliance with the original order.

The Air Force announced plans Friday to spend almost $6 billion to buy more than 140 unmanned Predator spy planes from General Atomics Aeronautical Systems of San Diego, in the largest acquisition to date of robotic aircraft. Surveillance and reconnaissance needs in Iraq have underscored the importance of the propeller-driven Predators, which cruise at 84 m.p.h. and are controlled by an operator hundreds of miles away using a joystick and a video monitor.

Electronics giant Siemens converted its 18-year joint venture with CTI Corp. of Knoxville, Tenn., into a merger valued at $1 billion, the companies announced Friday. CTI builds scanners, which Siemens distributes, that are used by the medical industry to detect various diseases.

J.C. Penney, the department store chain, announced a buy-back of $1 billion worth of stock and debt by year's end as part of a capital restructuring program.

Winn-Dixie Stores won a bankruptcy court's OK Friday for $800 million in financing that the company says it needs to continue operating while it reorganizes. The supermarket chain previously had been approved to receive $600 million in credit from Wachovia Bank. Company chief Peter Lynch said he expects to come up with a list by mid-April of which of Winn-Dixie's 922 stores will be closed and how many of its 79,000 employees will lose their jobs. Winn-Dixie's headquarters are in Jacksonville, Fla.

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