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Closing Bell: Rambus


DaimlerChrysler (DCX) CEO J?rgen Schrempp may have hit some bumps on the road to building a global carmaker, but the company's supervisory board hasn't lost faith in him. It has given Schrempp more time to make good on his vision for reinventing DaimlerChrysler by extending his contract through 2008. Schrempp, 59, has taken his lumps from shareholders dissatisfied with Daimler's lagging share price and eroding market share, but the board's Feb. 18 announcement gives him breathing room. He gets four more years to reverse Chrysler's steady decline, overhaul an ailing Mitsubishi Motors, and fix nagging quality problems at Mercedes-Benz (DCX). Although the Daimler board didn't make changes in the corner office, it promoted a cadre of younger managers. Among them is Wolfgang Bernhard, 43, who takes over as Mercedes boss on May 1. If Schrempp can't fix the company, potential successors will be nipping at his heels. As if the fallout from mad cow disease and poultry flu weren't enough, chicken and beef giant Tyson Foods (TSN) was hit on Feb. 17 with a federal jury recommendation that it pay $1.28 billion in damages for illegally depressing cattle prices. Independent ranchers took IBP, now part of Tyson, to court in 1996 under a little-known 1921 antitrust law, claiming that IBP's contracts with cattle feedyards unfairly manipulated prices. Similar suits are pending against other meatpackers, and the case is being closely watched for its implications in other industries where giant buyers wield power over suppliers. Tyson called the decision a "temporary legal setback" and is asking the judge to set aside the verdict. If he doesn't act, Tyson will appeal. The company said the verdict would not affect its liquidity or operations. Walt Disney (DIS) and Comcast (CMCSK) seem to be settling in for a long battle following Comcast's $54 billion hostile bid for the entertainment giant on Feb. 11. Disney, which has hired takeover defense lawyer Martin Lipton, rejected the cable company's bid as too low and voiced support for the company's "business, financial, and creative direction" under CEO Michael Eisner. Comcast countered that its bid, valued at $26.47, "reflects a full and generous valuation based upon Disney's prospects and performance over a long period of time." Still, it is expected to launch another bid and may add cash to its all-stock offer. Sources say that a bid could come close to Disney's Mar. 3 annual meeting. Shareholders got a shock on Feb. 17 when energy outfit El Paso (EP) chopped its annual estimate of how much natural gas it could profitably extract from the ground, known as proven reserves, by 41%. The news sent shares down more than 15% the next day. El Paso, which is trying to recover from failed attempts at energy trading and battles with regulators and dissident shareholders, has sold off $2.9 billion in assets and reorganized in an attempt to boost its core production business. But citing concerns about future production and cash flow, Standard & Poor's downgraded El Paso's $24 billion in long-term debt to B- from B, and Moody's (MCO) Investor Service warned it was considering taking similar action. The do-not-call registry has been wildly popular, with more than 55 million households signing up. Now it has passed muster at the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, too. On Feb. 17, a three-judge panel of the court ruled that the list did not violate telemarketers' free-speech rights. The two trade groups that brought the suit are weighing an appeal to the full 10th Circuit Court. Meanwhile, the law appears to be working: In a Jan. 19-28 Harris Poll, 92% of adults who signed up reported getting fewer calls. -- Intel's (INTC) Xeon and Pentium 4 chips will soon process data at a 64-bit rate.

-- Two NYSE firms will pay more than $50 million each to settle trading abuse charges.

-- Yahoo! (YHOO) has stopped using Google's Internet search engine technology.


Toyota's Hydrogen Man
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