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Looks like Ronald Dollens is going to be working longer than he had planned. On Nov. 2 the Federal Trade Commission, after nearly 11 months of review, conditionally approved Johnson & Johnson's (JNJ
) $25.4 billion takeover of cardiac implant maker Guidant (GDT
). With the O.K., Guidant CEO Dollens, 58, seemed on the verge of retiring, something he had hoped to do since mid-2004. But minutes after the FTC's action, J&J repudiated the deal, saying that a series of recalls by Guidant for defective defibrillators earlier this year materially damaged the Indianapolis company.
Still, Dollens has options. He could sue J&J to force it to complete the acquisition at $76 a share. Or he could look around for another bidder. Although the product recalls did cut into Guidant's share in the market for implantable devices, analysts say Abbott Laboratories (ABT
) and Merck (MRK
) may be interested in Guidant at the right price. Either way, the company will have to put off that retirement party for its founder. Detroit's auto makers hit yet another pothole, as October proved the worst month for U.S. vehicle sales since 1998. General Motors (GM
) and Ford Motor (F
) each reported that sales dropped by 26% from October, 2004. Buyers weren't tempted by new models since many made their purchases in previous months, when deep discounts were still in effect. They also steered clear of gas-guzzling sport-utility vehicles and trucks. Chrysler Group's (DCX
) news wasn't as bad: Its sales slowed 3.1%. Meanwhile, Toyota Motor (TM
) and Honda Motor (HMC
) rode hot new models to modest sales gains, giving the Asians 40% of the U.S. market for the first time, while the Big Three held just 52.4%, a new low. Time Warner (TWX
) CEO Richard Parsons is a conciliator par excellence. On Nov. 2 he announced Time Warner would boost its share repurchase plan from $5 billion to $12.5 billion, a nod to activist shareholder Carl Icahn's campaign to raise the buyback to $20 billion. What's more, Parsons announced that the media giant's net profit rose 80% in the third quarter, due largely to a strong performance at its cable unit. He also confirmed that Time Warner is in exploratory talks with potential partners for its America Online (TWX
) division. The news came on the heels of the resignation of AOL co-founder Steve Case from the Time Warner board on Oct. 31. Case is leaving to pursue his new health and wellness business, Revolution. A lightning rod ever since the ill-fated merger of AOL and Time Warner in 2001, Case stepped down as chairman of the combined entity under shareholder pressure in 2003. Anthony Zingale was promoted to CEO of business software company Mercury Interactive (MERQE
) from president in the wake of a scandal involving employee stock options. The Mountain View (Calif.)-based company said an internal investigation found that former CEO Amnon Landan and two other executives allegedly participated in a scheme to misreport option grant dates between 1996 and 2002. This allowed management and employees to exercise options at lower strike prices, thus pocketing more money, the report said. The internal probe follows a 2004 Securities & Exchange Commission inquiry. Landan could not be reached for comment. Mercury shares plunged 27% on the news. Comcast (CMCSA
), Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, and Advance/Newhouse Communications unveiled a much-anticipated plan on Nov. 2 to pitch wireless service through Sprint Nextel (S
). By mid-2006, all the members of the consortium will launch mobile phones in their respective regions. The new phones will allow subscribers to view live TV shows, program a digital videorecorder, manage PC e-mail, retrieve voice mail left on home phones, and, of course, talk. -- Cablevision Systems' (CVC
) board approved a $3 billion special shareholder dividend.
-- Qwest Communications (Q
) will pay $400 million to settle a shareholder suit over accounting.
-- Procter & Gamble's (PG
) quarterly profits rose 4%. Symantec (SYMC
) shares fell 19.3%, to $19.37, on Nov. 2 after the security software giant warned investors that it would miss 2006 revenue and earnings targets. Two major reasons for the shortfall: tough retail competition and late shipment of key products.