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"We do not think the general ownership of equities is going to be very exciting over the next 10 to 15 years" -- Warren Buffett, at the Berkshire Hathaway annual meetingEdited by Robert McNattReturn to top

Oh, What a Feeling: B2B

Toyota Motor, the world's third-largest carmaker, has decided to join the massive automotive e-commerce network announced in February. The joint trade exchange now includes four of the five largest carmakers--Toyota, Ford, General Motors, and DaimlerChrysler.

The business-to-business Web site, still unnamed and without a CEO, plans to go public in the fourth quarter, Harold Kutner, GM's group vice-president for worldwide purchasing told Business Week. One source on Wall Street estimates the future market cap of the site at about $10 billion.

But Toyota may not profit from an initial public offering. The company is still waffling about taking an equity stake, says Kutner. "The Japanese are more conservative," he notes. "They'll work for the exchange for a while and go from there."

Toyota executives have written to Kutner that it will initially conduct only a portion of its purchasing online. A U.S. Toyota spokesman could not confirm the company's plans regarding the exchange. Joining the online trading site, however, would be a big change for the Japanese carmaker, which has tended to build strong ties with suppliers rather than seek lower prices through bidding.By David Welch; Edited by Robert McNattReturn to top

With Friends Like This...

On May 5, 1998, executives from 60 companies, including CompUSA Stores, Compaq Computer, and Dell stood up at a New York rally to support Microsoft in its antitrust war. But now that the Justice Dept. wants to break up Microsoft, the silence from those supporters is deafening.

So far, Michael Capellas, CEO of Compaq, is Microsoft's only high-profile outspoken industry ally. "We oppose any efforts to break up Microsoft," he told Business Week. Some execs say the silence elsewhere stems from tacit approval of the Justice proposal. "We're all hiding in the same hole--but we're cheering," says one PC executive. "This breakup is what needs to happen."

To be sure, there's plenty of debate on whether a breakup would hurt or help the industry. That leaves lots of wiggle room for some high-tech honchos. Michael Dell has attacked the anti-trust laws but stops short of opposing the breakup. And Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina says only that she backs whatever is best for customers. "You should not view the silence as approval," Fiorina says. "I haven't had enough time to study the proposal."

With Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson set to rule on the Justice Dept.'s breakup remedy on May 24, companies may feel there's little to be gained from sounding off now. "This really, truly is between Microsoft and Justice," says James Halpin, the former CEO of CompUSA Stores, who attended the 1998 rally. Adds one PC company insider: "We're treading the line between teeing off Microsoft and teeing off the government." Right now, at least, it looks like Microsoft won't get much help from its friends.By Peter Burrows; Edited by Robert McNattReturn to top

TABLE

Gender-Neutral Benefits

Vermont has become the first state to sanction civil unions for gays. But the private sector, especially high-tech companies, has led the way. Lotus Development was the first public company to extend benefits to unmarried domestic partners, back in 1982. Pressed to attract and retain workers, other businesses have followed suit. Here are ones that have done so since Jan. 1:COMPANY, HEADQUARTERSBOEING, SeattleCITIGROUP, New YorkCUMMINS ENGINE, Columbus, Ind.DELOITTE TOUCHE, New YorkGENERAL MILLS, MinneapolisGOLDMAN SACHS, New YorkMOTOROLA, Schaumburg, Ill.NATIONWIDE INSURANCE, Columbus, OhioPRUDENTIAL, Newark, N.J.SAIC, San DiegoTEXAS INSTRUMENTS, DallasU.S. BANCORP, Minneapolis

DATA: HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGNReturn to top


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