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Financial Times: BUSINESS: Shell attacks in Nigeria

BUSINESS
*UK productivity gap grows
Chancellor Gordon Brown's dream of British productivity to rival that of the US was dealt a blow with the publication of figures showing the gap had widened since Labour came to power in 1997.
*Million dollar site hit
The FBI is probing the hijacking of milliondollarhomepage.com – a website that earned its creator Alex Tew $1m (£567,000) by hosting micro-ads – by hackers who demanded a ransom to restore the site. Mr Tew was sent a demand for $50,000 by e-mail by a hacker, believed to be Russian.
*Tesco still at top of the tree
Tesco reaffirmed its position at the top of Britain's supermarket heap, delivering stronger headline growth than its competitors for the fifth year running. But the market, now used to exceptional performance, gave a lukewarm reception to underlying sales up 5.7 per cent over Christmas.
*Airbus again outsells Boeing
Stellar sales in December allowed Airbus to surprise the aerospace industry by announcing it had won more new orders for commercial aircraft than its US rival for the fifth year running. Boeing, however, won 55 per cent of the market by value in 2005, helped by success in selling long-haul aircraft.
*Cisco targets home electronics
Cisco, the leading internet networking equipment maker, plans to challenge companies such as Sony and Samsung in mainstream consumer electronics. Cisco's chief development officer said demand for devices that could link to the internet would allow the company to enter a new market.
*Europe search engine move
Bertelsmann, the German media group, is set to become German leader of a Franco-German project to create a multimedia search engine that can challenge US dominance. Project Quaero aims to take on Google and Yahoo with a search engine that can sort audio, images and video as well as text.
*Boston gets the upper hand
Boston Scientific achieved a potentially decisive blow in its battle with Johnson & Johnson to take control of Guidant. The US heart devices maker has been a takeover target for more than a year and this week switched support from J&J to Boston.
*Debenhams set for comeback
Debenhams, the department store chain that was delisted in 2003, is set for a return to the stock market. The high street retailer has appointed four banks to assess its strategic options ahead of a listing that could raise more than £3bn and be one of the biggest IPOs this year.
*£2bn BA pensions deficit
British Airway's pension deficit has roughly doubled to about £2bn since the last valuation in March 2003, BA told union representatives. If the company were to wind up its schemes, it would crystallise a debt of £3bn-£4bn, compared with BA's market capitalisation of about £3.6bn.
*US banks perform well
Merrill Lynch showed the success of CEO Stan O'Neal's strategy of cost-control and investment in new businesses, reporting record $5.3bn (£3bn) profits for 2005. Merrill's good investment banking performance was in contrast to that produced by JPMorgan's investment banking arm.
*Minolta to abandon cameras
Konica Minolta is pulling out of the camera and photo businesses and selling some of its digital SLR camera assets to Sony. The surprise move signifies the end of an era in which traditional camera and film companies, many of them Japanese, dominated the market.
WORLD
*Chirac's nuclear warning
Jacques Chirac, France's president, threatened to use nuclear weapons against any state that supported terrorism against his country or considered using weapons of mass destruction. Mr Chirac said the end of the cold war did not remove the threats to peace or the justification for his country maintaining its nuclear deterrent.
*Bin Laden's carrot and stick
Osama bin Laden warned on audiotape of preparations for new attacks against the US, but the al-Qaeda leader also offered a truce if US troops were withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan. The White House immediately rejected the suggeston.
*Austria calls for investor tax
Wolfgang Schüssel, chancellor of Austria, which holds the EU presidency, said that short-term financial investors should pay a new tax to help fund the 25-member club. According to Mr Schüssel, the EU should look at new ways of financing its operations to avoid wrangling over the budget.
*Iran in nuclear hot water
Britain dismissed calls from Tehran for the resumption of nuclear talks. The EU3 – France, Germany and Britain – last week said the negotiations were at a dead end after Iran resumed uranium enrichment. They now plan to report Iran to the UN Security Council.
*Chile gets first female leader
Michelle Bachelet, the candidate of Chile's centre-left government coalition, won the run-off election to become the country's first female president, and also South America's first popularly elected female president.
*Cash pledge for bird flu fight
The world's top public health authorities stressed the need for a strategy to allocate funds pledged to fight avian flu. A total of $1.9bn (£1bn) was raised from the international community to fight the disease. The US donated $334m and the EU about $260m.
*Pakistan tense after US attack
Condoleezza Rice, US secretary of state, said Washington could not deal “lightly” with al-Qaeda but promised to address Islamabad's concerns after a US attack on a Pakistani village. Pakistan's prime minister struck a conciliatory note following the incident.
*Shell attacks in Nigeria
Nigeria's security forces were on high alert after a spate of seemingly politically motivated attacks by armed militants on oil facilities operated by Royal Dutch Shell, the Anglo-Dutch energy group, in the turbulent Niger Delta region.
*New Israeli PM talks peace
Ehud Olmert, Israel's acting prime minister, who replaced Ariel Sharon after he suffered a massive stroke, said he hoped to renew peace talks with the Palestinians after general elections in March but repeated Mr Sharon's precondition that militant groups must first be disarmed.
Compiled by Delphine Strauss, James Fontanella and Emmeline Ravilious

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