Business Highlights


Stronger US economy and dollar tighten Latin American ties

WASHINGTON (AP) — In Mexico City, an auto parts company expects to ride a resurgent U.S. auto industry to $1 billion in annual revenue by 2016.

In Bogota, Colombia, a company that makes plastic water valves is hoping an expansion into the United States will super-charge its exports.

In Brazil, firms that make ceramic tiles predict they’ll beat last year’s robust sales abroad, thanks to a strong U.S. dollar that gives them a price advantage in the United States.

Across Latin America, companies increasingly are looking north for business. The prospect of tighter commercial ties across the Americas has handed the United States a chance to reclaim some of the regional economic and political clout it lost to a surging China over the past decade.


Shell’s $70 billion takeover could herald wave of mergers

LONDON (AP) — Oil and gas company Shell has agreed to buy British rival BG Group for 47 billion pounds ($69.7 billion), in a deal that may signal a new wave of mega-mergers as the energy industry tries to adapt to lower prices.

Royal Dutch Shell said Wednesday it will pay the equivalent of 13.67 pounds in cash and stock for each share of BG Group, 50 per cent more than Tuesday’s closing price. The deal will boost Shell’s oil and gas reserves by 25 per cent, including offshore projects in Australia and Brazil, and give it a bigger presence in the fast-growing liquefied natural gas market, Shell said.


Tesla boosts range, power and price of low-end Model S

DETROIT (AP) — Electric car maker Tesla Motors is going after mainstream luxury car buyers by adding all-wheel-drive and more range and power to the base version of its only model.

But the added features at the low end of the Model S lineup will come with about a 7 per cent price increase, to $75,000 for those buying the cars. The base lease price will rise to $838 per month from $796 for 12,000 miles per year.


Japan’s recovery weak after 2 years of monetary ‘bazooka’

TOKYO (AP) — Two years after launching a bazooka of ultra-lavish monetary easing, Bank of Japan Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda has made only fitful progress toward the goal of the 2 per cent inflation rate he and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said was needed to jolt the world’s No. 3 economy out of its deflationary rut.

Kuroda increased central bank purchases of assets last fall and splashed still more cash on the economy last autumn, but faces mounting pressure to open the taps further. The central bank left that policy unchanged following a meeting that ended Wednesday.


Computer users face hard choice — pay ransom or lose files

NEW YORK (AP) — It’s a chilling moment: A message appears on a computer screen, saying the files are encrypted and the only way to access them is by paying a ransom.

It happened at Jeff Salter’s home health care business last December. The network of nearly 30 computers at Caring Senior Service was infected with ransomware, malicious software that hackers use to try to extort money from people and businesses by preventing them from opening or using documents, pictures, spreadsheets and other files. If computer users don’t pay, there’s no way they can access their files.


Fed minutes: Officials split widely on rate hike timing

WASHINGTON (AP) — Fed officials disagreed widely when they met last month on when they would be ready to lift interest rates from record lows.

Minutes of the March 17-18 meeting released Wednesday reveal that several policymakers predicted a rate hike in June, while others concerned about low inflation didn’t think a rate hike would be warranted until later this year. Still others said the economy wouldn’t be strong enough for an increase until 2016.

The Fed’s benchmark interest rate has been near zero since December 2008.


Mylan offers about $29B for rival generic drugmaker Perrigo

NEW YORK (AP) — In a deal that would combine two generic drugmakers that recently left the U.S. for Europe, Mylan says it wants to buy Perrigo for $205 per share, or $28.86 billion.

Shares of both companies climbed to all-time highs on the news. If they combine, Mylan and Perrigo would become one of the world’s largest makers of generic and over-the-counter medicines.

Mylan said the combined company would have had $15.3 billion in revenue in 2014 and would also be a leader in specialty drugs and nutritional products. It said the combined company would be able to grow even further with additional acquisitions.


Bloomberg adds $30 million to anti-coal campaign

WASHINGTON (AP) — Billionaire Michael Bloomberg announced Wednesday that he is donating an additional $30 million to a Sierra Club initiative working to reduce the nation’s use of coal.

The Sierra Club has a goal of replacing half the nation’s coal plants with renewable energy by 2017.

Bloomberg donated $50 million to the program in 2011. The latest donation, along with $20 million from others, will be spent over the next three years. He says that reducing the number of coal plants will save lives and that job growth in solar, wind and natural gas can offset coal-related jobs.


US judge upholds verdict against Arab Bank

NEW YORK (AP) — A federal judge refused on Wednesday to throw out a U.S. jury’s verdict finding that a large Jordan-based bank was responsible for terror attacks in Israel that killed or wounded Americans.

The ruling in the closely watched legal offshoot of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict clears the way for a second trial later this year to determine whether Arab Bank must pay damages that could reach hundreds of millions of dollars or more.


Airline official: Germanwings probe shouldn’t set precedent

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Germanwings air crash investigation shouldn’t set a precedent for future investigations because it sought to assign blame before the probe was complete, which could jeopardize airline co-operation if it became the practice, the head of a trade association representing the global airline industry said Wednesday.

Airlines and aviation safety regulators around the world have long-established procedures for investigating crashes that put identifying and correcting safety risks ahead of assigning blame, Tony Tyler, the CEO and director general of the International Air Transport Association, told reporters. Investigating with the intent to punish risks a loss of transparency and openness, he said.


40 per cent of flights cancelled in France amid strike

PARIS (AP) — French air traffic controllers went on strike Wednesday to demand better working and retirement conditions, prompting the cancellation of nearly half of flights across France.

The powerful SNCTA union called the two-day strike, saying the government has refused to open negotiations about matters such as how to better organize their work schedules to account for downtime and more traffic.

The start of the walkout led to the cancellation of 40 per cent of flights across France on Wednesday, and the French civil aviation agency called for the cancellation of 50 per cent of flights on Thursday due to staffing shortages.


US restores India’s aviation safety rating after downgrade

NEW DELHI (AP) — U.S. aviation authorities restored India’s safety rating on Wednesday a year after a downgrade, allowing Indian carriers to increase the flights they operate to the United States.

The announcement came after a meeting between U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and India’s Minister of Civil Aviation Ashok Gajapathi Raju, the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi said in a statement.

The Federal Aviation Administration downgraded India’s rating in January 2014, after assessing that its civil aviation safety oversight did not meet international norms.


Review: New Apple Photos app makes fixing, cropping easy

NEW YORK (AP) — If you’re like most people, those hundreds of photos you took on vacation are still on your camera or phone. You shared a handful on Facebook or Instagram, and tell yourself that you’ll sift through the others — one day.

Procrastinate no more. Apple’s new Photos app for Mac computers, available Wednesday as a free software update, makes it easy to organize and edit your pictures. The app, which replaces iPhoto, bundles professional-level tools such as granular colour correction into one free consumer package.


By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average picked up 27.09 points at 17,902.51. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 5.57 points, or 0.3 per cent, at 2,081.90. The Nasdaq composite gained 40.59 points, or 0.8 per cent, to 4,950.82.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell $3.56 to close at $50.42 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell $3.55 to close at $55.55 in London. Wholesale gasoline fell 12.2 cents to close at $1.739 a gallon. Heating oil fell 8.6 cents to close at $1.698 a gallon. Natural gas fell 6.1 cents to close at $2.619 per 1,000 cubic feet.