Archive for March, 2009

Microsoft and TomTom settle patent fight (Reuters)

Monday, March 30th, 2009 | Finance News

SEATTLE (Reuters) –
Microsoft Corp and Dutch navigation device maker TomTom NV said on Monday they had reached a settlement after more than a year of squabbling over software patents.

In the last few weeks, both companies had sued the other, claiming patent infringement.

Under the terms of a five-year agreement, Microsoft said TomTom will pay Microsoft for use of the eight car navigation and file management system patents in the case Microsoft brought against TomTom, while Microsoft will be able to use the four patents included in the TomTom countersuit without any payment to TomTom.

TomTom confirmed there was a settlement but declined further comment.

Specific financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

The world's largest software company in February sued in federal court in its home state of Washington and petitioned the U.S. International Trade Commission claiming TomTom -- which makes portable navigation devices for cars and mapping software for handheld computers -- breached eight of its patents.

Microsoft said the patents involved in the case related to innovations in car navigation technology and other computing functionality that Microsoft has licensed to other companies, such as TomTom's rival Garmin Ltd.

TomTom countersued in the U.S. District Court for the eastern district of Virginia, earlier this month, claiming Microsoft violated a number of its patents.

Microsoft shares slightly pared losses after the announcement, down 3.9 percent at $17.43 in a broad market decline. Ahead of the settlement announcement, TomTom shares closed at 3.413 euros in Amsterdam, down 7.2 percent.

(Reporting by Bill Rigby; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)


Oil prices slide under $50 on economic woes (AFP)

Monday, March 30th, 2009 | Finance News

Oil prices sank underneath 50 dollars per barrel on Monday, in line with stock markets on renewed concerns for the global economy and the struggling US auto sector, traders said.

New York's main futures contract, light sweet crude for delivery in May, dropped 2.87 dollars to 49.51 dollars per barrel, falling under 50 for the first time since March 18.

Brent North Sea crude for May shed 2.65 dollars to 49.33 dollars a barrel, after earlier passing under the psychological barrier for the first time since March 20.

Wall Street shares accelerated losses on Monday after the US government warned General Motors and Chrysler could face bankruptcy, stoking fresh fears about the recession-hit US economy.

European stock markets plummeted as the US unveiled plans for a major shake-up in the auto industry, with London's FTSE 100 index of leading shares falling 3.49 percent to 3,762.91 points.

"Worries regarding demand weakness are largely responsible for the decline," said Calyon analyst Christophe Barret.

"Indeed, it is difficult to be bullish on oil prices in an environment where economic forecasts are constantly revised downward, with ongoing recession getting deeper and deeper."

Prices have collapsed since striking record peaks above 147 dollars per barrel in July as the global economic downturn has ravaged the world's appetite for energy.

Crude oil has shed about five dollars since Thursday as demand concerns have returned to haunt the market amid plunging world stock markets.

"The market is probably a little concerned about the short-term performance of the equity markets," said Mark Pervan, senior commodities analyst of ANZ bank.

Oil prices at about 50 dollars a barrel will not support huge investments needed in the sector to meet demand, the secretary-general of the International Energy Forum said on Monday.

"Current prices will not support the huge levels of investment needed to meet future oil demand," Noe van Hulst told the opening of a two-day forum on cooperation between national and international oil companies in Kuwait.

"Around 12 trillion dollars of investments are needed in the oil and gas sector by 2030, or nearly 500 billion dollars per annum, to maintain market balance," Hulst of the Riyadh-based IEF said.

He warned that a delay in investments and projects, which is already taking place, will affect future energy supplies and he called for the maintaining of investment plans, as much as possible, to avoid a "boom-bust cycle."

Meanwhile, Qatar's Energy Minister Abdullah al-Attiya said Monday that the latest price of oil is "reasonable" given the ongoing global economic downturn.

"Fifty (dollars a barrel) is a reasonable price for 2009, considering the global economic crisis," Attiya told reporters on the sidelines of the two-day energy forum in Kuwait City.

"The world economy is in depression and has not reached the bottom. I am still waiting to see the worst," the minister said.


Chrysler agrees on framework of alliance with Fiat (Reuters)

Monday, March 30th, 2009 | Finance News

DETROIT (Reuters) –
Chrysler LLC has reached an agreement on a framework of a global alliance with Italian automaker Fiat SpA (FIA.MI) that has the support of the U.S. Treasury, Chrysler's CEO Bob Nardelli said on Monday.

"We appreciate the willingness of the (autos) Task Force, along with industry and financial experts, to consult closely with us in order to achieve this significant step," Nardelli said in a statement.

Chrysler, owned by private equity Cerberus Capital Management, was deemed by the task force to be not viable as a stand-alone company and was given 30 days to complete an alliance with Fiat or be cut off from U.S. government funding.

If Chrysler can complete an alliance with Fiat and cost-saving arrangements with creditors and its major union, the U.S. Treasury would consider investing up to another $6 billion.

The boards of Chrysler and Fiat have given executives approval to complete an alliance that now hinges on the terms for additional aid for Chrysler, people with knowledge of the discussions have said.

Nardelli said that Chrysler has had a series constructive discussions, including weekly face-to-face meetings with the U.S. auto task force.

"I want to personally assure all of our customers, dealers, suppliers and employees that Chrysler will operate 'business as usual' over the next 30 days," he said.

(Reporting by Poornima Gupta; Editing by Toni Reinhold)