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Business

Business Briefs

Shareholders sue Deutsche Telekom over public offering; AOL and Bertelsmann consider music merger; metalworkers push ahead with demands for a 35-hour work week in eastern Germany and more.

Shareholders sue Deutsche Telekom

Close to 1,500 small investors filed a lawsuit against Deutsche Telekom in a Frankfurt court on Monday, accusing the company of providing false data and concealing risks during its third public offering. The lawsuit claims that Telekom provided inaccurate and false information in its pre-offering prospectus. The plaintiffs are demanding repayment for the shares they bought as well as the fees they had to pay to sell those shares. A spokesman for Telekom, Germany's largest telecommunications provider, denied the charge, saying the prospectus was in order from the company's perspective. The plaintiffs are describing the lawsuit as the largest in Germany's corporate history.

AOL and Bertelsmann consider music merger

AOL Time Warner and Bertelsmann are in talks over a possible merger of their music businesses, Monday's Wall Street Journal Europe reported. Each company would own 50 percent of the combined German-American music company, which would include the labels Arista, BMG, Time Warner, Zomba Music and others. A Bertelsmann spokesman refused to comment on the report.

Metalworkers call for 35-hour week

Following a wave of warning strikes, metalworkers from eastern Germany have started what is expected to be a bitter round of talks with employers in a bid to introduce a 35-hour week. Aiming to bring the region in line with the wealthier west, the IG Metal trade union is pushing to gradually cut the working week from the current 38 hours for the industry's 310,000 employees in the east. The new rounds of talks follow failed negotiations last month that prompted workers to lay down their tools in protest. Since the two sides of Germany were reunited in 1990, workers in the east's electronic and metal industries have worked longer hours than their western counterparts for the same pay. But industry chiefs have argued the factories in the east are far less productive than those in the west.

Engineering giant feels effects of SARS

Linde, the German engineering conglomerate, is beginning to suffer from the economic fallout of SARS in its Asian business and will have greater difficulty achieving the earnings growth it originally hoped for this year, company chairman Wolfgang Reitzle said in an interview with the Financial Times Deutschland. Reitzle told the newspaper that although the company's target of a higher operating profit this year still stood, the way Linde's business had developed over the first quarter had made achieving that target substantially more difficult. The economic effects of the respiratory virus SARS overseas and a crippling domestic economy have severely dented Linde's future plans and could have longer-term effects.

Biometrics market leader chooses Australia

German biometrics company Viisage-ZN, the leader in face-recognition technology with 80 percent of the world's market, has chosen to set up its Asia-Pacific headquarters in Australia, rather than in Singapore as was expected. The company will locate its headquarters in Melbourne or Brisbane within the next few months, according to the Australian daily Sydney Morning Herald. Marcel Yon, the managing director of Viisage-ZN, told the newspaper the company had chosen Australia over Singapore because Australia was among the leaders in developing biometrics. The fact that Viisage-ZN is negotiating four major projects with federal and state governments in Australia was also taken into consideration in the choice of location, Yon said. Viisage-ZN's face-recognition technology -- which draws on a database of 13 million faces -- can search 500,000 faces in a second.

Compiled with material from wire services.