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U Apple Inc. said a new consumer study shows its iTunes online music store vaulted past Wal-Mart in February to become the top overall music retailer in the United States. Apple said that consumer surveys conducted by market research firm NPD Group show iTunes’ music sales surpassed those of the discount retailer in January and February.

U Tobacco companies have won a legal round over smokers who claim they were misled about the health effects of light cigarettes. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan, N.Y., overturned class-action status for a lawsuit seeking at least $200 billion on behalf of tens of millions of smokers.


U Toyota Motor Corp. denied it received any funding from the Japanese government to develop its hit Prius gas-electric hybrid car. Japan’s top automaker rejected a report that quoted Jim Press, president of Chrysler and a former Toyota executive, as saying, “The Japanese government paid for 100 percent of the development of the battery and hybrid system.”

U Alitalia edged closer to bankruptcy protection, though it would continue flying, after Air France-KLM abruptly broke off talks to buy the struggling national airline and Alitalia’s chairman of seven months resigned in frustration. The board convened an emergency meeting as 300 Alitalia workers gathered outside chanting “We want Air France” and demanding the return of Chairman Maurizio Prato.

U Venezuela moved to take a greater cut from high oil prices when the legislature gave initial approval to a bill setting taxes as high as 60 percent on profits from increases in crude prices. “Sudden profits” made by foreign oil companies would be taxed at 50 percent when the average monthly price for benchmark Brent crude exceeds $70 a barrel.

U Total SA Chief Executive Christophe de Margerie was paid about $4.2 million last year, a fraction of that earned by his U.S. counterparts, according to the global oil major.

U British hedge fund Pentagon Capital Management and Chief Executive Lewis Chester were sued by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission regulators for reputedly arranging abusive mutual fund trades that made $62 million.

From wire dispatches and staff reports