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Economy Briefs: N.Y. Times starts Chinese site; microblogs go offline

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BEIJING — The New York Times started a Chinese-language website Thursday that generated so much interest in China that two of its microblog accounts drew thousands of followers and were apparently taken offline for several hours.

The Times' accounts on microblog sites hosted by two popular Chinese Web portals were offline Thursday morning, said Craig Smith, the paper's China managing director.

The paper's Chinese microblog accounts were activated Wednesday, attracting around 10,000 followers on Sina Weibo within a day and several thousand users on other sites.

NEWS CORP.

Split approved for Murdoch media empire

LOS ANGELES — Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. said that its board has approved a plan to split into two companies, one containing struggling newspaper and book publishing businesses and the other comprising faster-growing entertainment operations.

Mr. Murdoch will serve as chairman of both new companies and CEO of the entertainment company. The Murdoch family, which controls nearly 40 percent of the voting shares in News Corp., is expected to maintain control of both companies.

News Corp.'s board unanimously approved the split in principle and will take a more formal look at the details in coming months. The separation is also subject to regulatory approval.

EUROPE

Italy, Spain demand relief, holding up stimulus

BRUSSELS — French President Francois Hollande says the leaders of the 17 countries that use the euro are holding an unplanned meeting in the middle of the night to talk about emergency measures that might lower the borrowing rates of Italy and Spain.

Leaders of those two countries say their current borrowing rates are unsustainable. They also have refused to give their final approval to a proposed $149 billion stimulus plan unless immediate measures are taken to help them.

Mr. Hollande also said early Friday that discussions on the future deepening of the Europe's economic and monetary union had been put off until October.

HAWAII

Ellison completes island purchase

HONOLULU — Sellers say Oracle Corp. billionaire Larry Ellison has closed on his deal to buy most of the Hawaiian island of Lanai.

Billionaire David Murdock's Castle & Cooke Inc. said Thursday that the deal had been completed for about 88,000 acres on the island near Maui. The land makes up 98 percent of the island's 141 square miles.

A sale price for the land was not disclosed and the firm declined to give details. The Maui News previously reported Castle & Cooke was asking for $500 million to $600 million for the rural island.

NEW YORK

AOL starts process of buying back stock

NEW YORK — AOL Inc. has started a "Dutch auction" tender offer to buy back up to $400 million of its common stock.

A "Dutch auction" offer allows shareholders to say how many shares they want to tender and at what price within a specified range. Based on that information, the company then determines the lowest price per share within the range that lets it buy the amount of shares that it wants.

AOL stockholders will have the chance to tender some or all of their shares between $27 and $30 per share.

The company's stock gained $1.09, or 4 percent, to $28.40 in before-market trading Thursday.

UAE

Piracy conference urges public-private solutions

DUBAI — Diplomats and business leaders at a Dubai conference are pushing for stronger partnerships between the public and private sectors in combating piracy off the coast of Somalia.

A statement issued at the end of the two-day counterpiracy event Thursday called for a "comprehensive approach" against pirates that includes national governments, international organizations and the global maritime industry.

It was the second year in a row that Dubai has hosted a counterpiracy conference. Organizers say this year's event attracted senior government officials from more than 40 countries, along with representatives from United Nations agencies and executives from dozens of maritime industry companies.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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