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Business

Business Briefs

Metal workers agree to strike in eastern Germany; Chancellor Schröder says the strong euro has hurt the country; Bayer's Viagra competitor may soon hit the U.S. market.

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Eastern German metal workers and electricians are gearing up to strike for a 35-hour work week.

Saxon's metal workers ready to strike

Trade union members in the eastern German metal and electrical industry have cast their ballots in favor of striking to push employers to cut their work week to 35 hours. Almost 80 percent of IG Metall's 16,000 members in the East voted for a strike, the trade union announced on Friday. Seventy-five percent was necessary to approve action, which could begin in Chemnitz and Zwickau on Monday. Metal workers in eastern Germany currently work three hours more than their colleagues in the West.

Criminal investigation dropped against SAP founder

The co-founder of SAP, Germany's biggest software company, has been cleared of criminal charges, a Mannheim court announced on Friday. The court said an investigation had shown that Dietmar Hopp was not guilty of using money from his own non-profit foundation to act as a guarantor for Bernhard Termühlen, chief executive officer of German insurance broker MLP. The Mannheim public prosecutor had opened an investigation into the matter in early March.

Sony plans German movie channel

Sony Pictures intends to launch its first TV channel in Germany, Sony television head Michael Grindon told Handelsblatt newspaper on Friday. "We want to establish our own cable channel in Germany," Grindon said, "I’m convinced that there are good opportunities for such a cable and satellite channel." The Hollywood-based company is considering broadcasting via the German cable service Premiere and T-Online for the Internet. Sony currently runs 36 cable and satellite channels worldwide. The starting date for the company’s German debut has not been set yet, Grindon said. But the studio needs to work quickly; its competitors MGM, Disney and Universal Studios, already operate channels in Germany broadcast by Premiere. German consumers spend less

German shoppers are keeping their hands in their pockets and spending less, according to the latest Consumer Climate study by the market research group, GfK. In May consumer spending dropped for a second month in a row. Despite a slight rise in earning expectations, the overall economic climate of rising unemployment and fears of a recession have "crippled" consumption, the GfK said on Friday. The situation should improve somewhat over the next month when the Consumer Climate Indicator, a poll of 2,000 Germans and their spending habits, rises from 3.6 points in May to 3.8 points in June.

Chancellor Schröder warns against strong euroThe euro's steep climb has damaged the German economy and could still do even more harm, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder told the Russian press in Moscow on Friday. "It's dampening economic developments already, since German products outside the euro zone are becoming more expensive," Schröder said. "If the euro's rapid appreciation continues, there will be risks for Germany as an export country," he emphasized. "Still, the German economy's ability to offer competitive prices is no worse than it was before the introduction of the euro."

Bayer soon to launch new Viagra competitor

The Leverkusen-based chemical and pharmaceutical company Bayer saw its share market price go up slightly on Friday after a U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory committee determined its impotence pill Levitra could not be linked to a particular heart problem and may soon be approved for the U.S. market. Levitra will compete with Pfizer's Viagra and another product from GlaxoSmithKline's, which was also approved by the committee, at the same time. Levitra has already been launched in 20 countries, including Germany. Sales in the U.S. are expected to generate 60 percent of the product's profits.

New train prices expected in July

Deutsche Bahn, Germany's national rail operator, will launch its revamped price system in July, Handelsblatt newspaper reported on Friday. The main features of the new price system will be presented to the supervisory board on June 2. The current price system has been subjected to heavy criticism from the media and consumer groups since it was launched in mid-December. At the same time Deutsche Bahn recorded a significant slump in profits.

Compiled with information from wire services