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Business Briefs

Euro drops after its all-time high; EM.TV. struggles despite selling off Kermit; Munich adopts Linux, and more


The euro drops in trading after all-time high against the dollar

Euro Drops after High

The euro fell against the dollar on Wednesday, distancing itself from its all-time high the previous day. Though leading analysts attributed the drop to technical factors, many also believe the euro’s course is being influenced by the assumption that the European Central Bank may be planning to lower interests rates next week. By 3:20 p.m. Wednesday, the euro had fallen to $1.1737, down from $1.1812 at the close of markets the evening before. In recent weeks, investors have been moving into euro-dominated investments, but that advantage may fall away if the ECB lowers interest rates.

EM.TV Still in Black Hole Despite Muppets sale

Despite the recent decision to shed ownership of the Jim Henson Company and its "Muppet Show" franchise, Munich-based media company EM.TV is still struggling to get back in black. On Wednesday, the company reported increased first-quarter after-tax losses of €18 million, attributing the red ink to €29.9 million in restructuring costs. Though EM.TV’s revenues increased 61.5 percent to €67.5 million, most of that money was attributed to the Henson sale. The company said sales actually would have fallen by 20 percent during the quarter if the Henson family hadn’t bought back Kermit, Miss Piggy and the rest of the Muppets puppet cast.

Retail Giant KarstadtQuelle Expecting Better Results

Germany’s fifth-largest retailer, the Essen-based KarstadtQuelle, said Wednesday it expected to improve its bottom line in 2003 despite a stagnant domestic economy. Chairman Wolfgang Urban told shareholders at the company’s annual meeting that if the strong first-quarter sales trend persists, the company could be on track for 5 percent increase in operating results over the previous year, with profits of €250 million expected. Urban said he was "confident that revenue developments at KarstadtQuelle would be better" than at competing companies. By the end of May, Urban said, revenues at the conglomerate had already matched last year’s total sales. In addition to its Karstadt department stores and Quelle mail order houses, Karstadt also operates the Starbucks coffee shop chain in Germany.

Grundig Shuts Vienna TV Manufacturing Facility

German electronics-maker Grundig, which applied for insolvency protection earlier this year, said Wednesday it would close its television manufacturing facility in Vienna. Creditors for the company's Austrian division reached the decision on Wednesday, a spokesman at Grundig's headquarters in Nuremberg, Germany, confirmed. The facility’s 800 employees have been informed that production is being ceased and have been offered retraining to help them find new jobs.

Munich to Adopt Linux

The technologically progressive Bavarian capital of Munich, known these days as much for its laptops as its Lederhosen, is set to become the first major German city to trash the Windows operating systems on its desktop computers. Munich's city council voted on Wednesday for a change in its city charter that would pave the way for employees to switch to the freely distributed, open-source Linux operating system on the more than 14,000 city-owned computers. The city estimates training and personnel costs associated with the switch will total close to €30 million euros. Munich officials said their goal was to reduce the city's dependence on individual vendors.