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Business Briefing

December 18, 2009

Oracle profit beats forecasts

Oracle Corp. reported profit that beat analysts' estimates after customers renewed annual support contracts. The shares climbed 3.9% in late trading.

Second-quarter net income at the world's second-largest software maker rose 13% to $1.46 billion, or 29 cents a share, from $1.3 billion, or 25 cents, a year earlier, Oracle said.

Excluding some costs, profit was 39 cents in the period, which ended Nov. 30. Analysts in a Bloomberg survey had estimated 36 cents on average.

Including revenue from acquired companies, sales rose 3.3% to $5.87 billion, topping the estimate of $5.7 billion.

VIDEO GAMES

Icahn raises stake in Take-Two

Billionaire investor Carl Icahn said he had acquired an 11% stake in video-game maker Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. and may seek talks with the company.

Icahn, 73, and associated companies hold 9.16 million shares, including options, of New York-based Take-Two, publisher of the Grand Theft Auto video games, according to a regulatory filing.

The investor began adding to an existing 2.5% Take-Two stake on Dec. 7, after the company's announcement of a wider-than-expected fourth-quarter loss.

THE ECONOMY

Jobless claims rise unexpectedly

The number of newly laid-off workers filing claims for unemployment benefits rose unexpectedly last week as the recovery of the nation's battered labor market proceeds in fits and starts.

The Labor Department said the number of new jobless claims rose to 480,000 last week, up 7,000 from the previous week.

Economists had expected a decline to 465,000.

The four-week moving average for claims, which smooths out fluctuations, did fall, to 467,500, the 15th straight decline, viewed as an encouraging sign. The average is at its lowest point since late September 2008, when the financial crisis was hitting with full force.

CONSUMER CREDIT

Capital One to drop dispute rule

Capital One Financial will drop language from credit card contracts that requires customer disputes to be handled through arbitration rather than the courts.

A bank spokeswoman said new agreements without the mandatory arbitration clause would be sent to all Capital One credit card customers next month.

Word of the plans came as a law firm that sued major card issuers reported a tentative settlement with McLean, Va.-based Capital One.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. had reached a similar agreement last month, and Bank of America Corp. followed suit Tuesday.

REGULATION

Ernst to settle fraud charges

Big accounting firm Ernst & Young has agreed to pay $8.5 million to settle federal regulators' charges in connection with an alleged accounting fraud at Bally Total Fitness from 2001 to 2003.

The Securities and Exchange Commission announced the settlement with Ernst & Young, which also agreed to change its policies and practices to prevent future problems. Officials said it was one of the largest settlements ever paid by an accounting firm.

The SEC had alleged that Ernst & Young knew or should have known about Bally's accounting violations.

Also agreeing to settle the SEC's charges were a former chief financial officer and a former controller of Bally as well as six current and former Ernst & Young partners.

-- times wire reports

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