Around the business world |

Around the business world

Daily Staff Report

HOUSTON – Kenneth Lay, the affable founder of Enron Corp. who became a poster child for an era of corporate scandals, took the witness stand and declared he is innocent of fraud charges. He spoke of enormous personal anguish over the jobs and retirement savings that vanished when Enron imploded – a collapse he blames on a “run on the bank” caused by a subordinate’s theft, negative press and post-Sept. 11 market pessimism.

PEORIA – Heavy equipment maker Caterpillar Inc. posts record first-quarter profits and boosts its earning forecast for the year during an ongoing sales surge. Meanwhile the company’s stock increases, approaching its 52-week high.LUXEMBOURG – The European Commission forced the world’s largest software maker to offer a product no one wanted and no one bought, Microsoft Corp. tells the EU’s second highest court as it begins trying to overturn a landmark antitrust ruling against it.LAS VEGAS – A coalition of entertainment groups will launch a $300 million educational campaign next month to urge parents to control what their children watch on television, the groups say. CARACAS, Venezuela – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is looking to increase state control over some of the country’s most promising oil fields in a move that could squeeze corporate profits and spook foreign investment. A proposal raised by Venezuela’s state oil company to take larger stakes in heavy crude projects has yet to be spelled out, but analysts warn it could hurt oil production in the long term. PANAMA CITY, Panama – Panama’s president proposes the biggest expansion of the Panama Canal since it opened in 1914, appealing for citizens to approve the multibillion-dollar plan in a referendum. It would allow enormous new cargo ships to transit the canal.Electrolux earnings take a tumble: SWITZERLAND – Electrolux AB, the world’s biggest maker of household appliances, says earnings dropped 5.5 percent in the first quarter, partly due to a 6 1/2-week strike by workers at a plant in Germany. AP Photo107.PARIS – French building materials maker Lafarge SA sweetens its offer to acquire the rest of its North American business to $85.50 per share, which a special committee of the North American company’s board has unanimously accepted. NEW YORK – Crude oil futures fell by almost $2 a barrel Monday on profit-taking after prices topped $75 last week, but analysts said the decline was likely to be temporary.Underlying worries about the security of world oil supplies persisted after Iran – facing a U.N. deadline to cease enriching uranium – insisted its nuclear program was irreversible.Concerns about gasoline supplies in the U.S. also kept a high floor under prices.Light sweet crude for June delivery fell $1.84 to settle at $73.33 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract settled at a record $75.17 a barrel on Friday after peaking at an intraday high of $75.35.Crude for June delivery on London’s ICE Futures exchange fell 72 cents to $73.85 a barrel.Vail Colorado

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