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Business Briefs

A geography lesson for Ryanair; mail order drugs; a yawn for German big business; shunning the euro

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Oh, you meant Düsseldorf, Germany? Ryanair has to change its language.

Can you say, 'Düsseldorf?' (Actually, no.)

The low-cost airline Ryanair cannot use the word Düsseldorf when referring to an airport that is actually located 70 kilometers (40 miles) from the city, a German court decided. The court said Ryanair's term "Düsseldorf-Niederrhein" was deceptive, given the distance between the former military airbase at Weeze, Germany, which Ryanair flies into three times a day, and the city on the Rhine itself. Low-cost airlines, which have proliferated in Europe in recent years, have often been criticized for misleading consumers that their destinations are closer to major cities than they actually are. For instance, Ryanair flies out of "Frankfurt-Hahn" airport, which is 120 kilometers from Frankfurt. Ryanair has accused its competitor Lufthansa, together with Düsseldorf Airport, of being behind the suit brought by the Centre Against Unfair Competition, a private organization. But Lufthansa denied any involvement in the legal case.

Mail-order Pharmacy opening in Germany

The disputed Dutch Internet pharmacy DocMorris is planning to set up headquarters in Hamburg, a move that would create 260 new jobs there, DocMorris CEO Ralf Däinghaus told the Hamburger Abendblatt. The reason for the move is the implementation of health reforms, which will allow mail-order pharmaceuticals to be shipped in Germany. "That was the starting point for our move," the DocMorris chief said. Until now, the company had its head office in the Netherlands, since shipping medicine by mail order is currently allowed there. But DocMorris has been sending drugs via mail to Germany since its founding three years ago. The German Association of Pharmacists has strongly opposed the legalization of mail-order pharmaceuticals.

Big yawn for German big business

Germany's biggest companies made a mediocre-at-best showing in the latest ranking of European businesses by the U.S. magazine BusinessWeek. The rankings are based on the sales figures and stock market performance of the 350 largest listed companies in Europe, taking account of activity over the last three years. The data was compiled by BusinessWeek and market analyst Standard & Poor's. The clear winner was Britain, with 17 firms in the top 50 -- and holder of spots one through three with the firms Bankhaus HBOS, GlaxoSmithKline pharmaceuticals and the Royal Bank of Scotland. Germany, although Europe's largest economy, had just four firms in the top 50, the most successful of which was carmaker BMW in 21st place. Other big names in German business, such as DaimlerChrysler and Deutsche Telekom, landed far behind in places 131 and 181. Paul Strebel, economics professor at the International Institute for Management Development in Lausanne, said the poor showing wasn't due to poor leadership at German firms. Rather, "the economic situation and inflexible (personnel) structures make it harder for German companies to do well," he said.

Euro fails to attract

England, Sweden and Denmark are likely to stay out of the eurozone in the coming years, analysts said. According to a Reuters survey, only 40 percent of Swedes asked said Sweden would enter the common currency by the end of 2006; the figure was the same among Danes. And only 13 percent of Britons thought England would be part of the eurozone by that time. All three countries must vote on entry into the eurozone, but only Sweden will be obliged to adopt the common currency if a majority of voters want it, and if it meets certain economic criteria. In the previous Gallup opinion poll, 50 percent of Swedes were opposed to adopting the euro, while 30 percent were in favor. The door is not closed, however: a large number of undecided Swedish voters could still be convinced when Prime Minister Göran Persson launches a pro-euro ad campaign in August.

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