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Business Briefs

More Germans are stealing their music online than ever before; German National Railway could be headed for strikes-ville; pharma giant Bayer shares rise after court victories and more.


Deutsche Bahn hasn't seen eye to eye with its train engineers

More burning music CDs, downloading songs

The number of downloaded songs and burned music CDs is increasing in Germany, according to a consumer study published on Friday. Market researchers working for the German Association for the Phonographic Industry said 250 million CDs had been burned last year, an increase of 42 percent from 2001. The amount of songs downloaded from music file-sharing web sites like Kazaa, is up 42 percent to 622 million songs. The figures mean more bad news for the music industry, which has undertaken a high-profile fight to keep their songs from being traded freely at no cost. Following long court cases, Web sites like music exchange pioneer Napster have had to begin charging users for each download. The entire industry has reported drops in sales since consumers began downloading songs and burning CDs. The phenomenon has lead to "existential difficulties for the music business," said Gerd Gebhardt, chairman of the association.

Deutsche Bahn can't agree with train union

Deutsche Bahn and the country's train engineers union failed to reach an agreement in arbitration on Thursday, setting the stage for more possible strikes. The GDL, which represents Germany's train engineers, and the Deutsche Bahn were expected to reach agreement on a settlement DB reached with unions representing the 160,000 other Bahn employees two weeks ago. That settlement gave Bahn workers a €400 ($429) payment this year, a salary increase of 1.5 percent this year and an 3.2 percent effective May 1, 2004. The GDL negotiating commission said the deal was unacceptable for their close to 35,000 members because of disagreement with the way the other two unions negotiated for them. Bahn and GDL are expected to meet again Friday in Frankfurt for further negotiations. GDL helped shut down train travel across Germany for 45 minutes on March 6 in a warning strike ahead of negotiations.

Long war could be bad for EU's economies

Greece's finance minister, meeting with European colleagues south of Athens on Friday, said an extended Iraq war could be a "nightmare" for the European economy. In comments to the Athens newspaper To Wima, Nikos Christodoulakis said a short war would most likely only affect the tourism industry, with the price of oil remaining stable. "Should the war last long … then the problem could take on nightmarish dimensions," he said. The EU ministers are likely to strike a more optimistic tone with regard to growth in the European Union countries in the coming year, said Christodoulakis. The Brussels-based EU Commission has estimated growth will amount to less than 1 percent, EU-wide.

Bayer shares up after U.S. court victories

Bayer Lipobay Medikamentenschachtel Medikament Arznei Cholesterin

Shares in pharmaceutical company Bayer are on the upswing following positive results in two court cases in the United States. involving their controversial drug Lipobay. A Mississippi judge ruled against a 70-year-old woman who sued the company after experiencing muscle weakness and pain while taking the cholesterol-lowering drug, which is marketed under the brandname Baycol in the U.S. The drug was pulled from shelves last year after consumers experienced unforeseen and painful side effects. Around 100 people died in connection with the drug and Bayer was besieged by more than 8,400 lawsuits in the United States. The drug company has paid out €140 million ($150 million) to settle around 500 cases out of court. Bayer won its first case involving a 82-year-old man who complained of muscle weakness after taking the drug. The next trial is expected to take place on April 21 in Texas. In the meantime, Bayer shares increased 6 percent on the news on Friday to €14.27.

Chambers of commerce feeling the pinch

Germany's chambers of commerce are suffering from the high number of businesses going belly up this year. Membership dues are down an estimated 15 percent in the country's 82 chambers of commerce, according to a poll by the German wire service DPA. More than 37,000 German firms went bankrupt in 2002, an increase of 16.4 percent, according to the Federal Statistics Office. Amid fears that solvent firms will begin challenging the German law requiring companies to pay chamber membership dues, the chamber's umbrella organization announced its own savings measures in order to set a good example. The Berlin-based Association of German Chambers Industry and Commerce (DIHK) will cut 30 employees, reducing its staff to 190 this year, according its director. Additional chambers, particularly in eastern Germany are also anticipating staff cuts.

Compiled with information from wire services