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Economy Briefs: Olympics prompts suspension of Sunday shopping limits

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LONDON — England's laws restricting shopping hours on a Sunday to six hours will be relaxed during the Olympics in London this summer, Finance Minister George Osborne said.

The suspension would run in England and Wales for eight Sundays covering the Olympics (July 27 to Aug. 12) and the Paralympics (Aug. 29 to Sept. 9).

"We've got the whole world coming to London - and the rest of the country - for the Olympics," Britain's chancellor of the exchequer told BBC television. "It would be a great shame - particularly when some of the big Olympic events are on Sunday - if the country had a 'closed for business' sign on it."

Campaigners against seven-days-a-week shopping hours claim it will open the door to a permanent shift in the rules, hitting family life. Current law also protects the rights of workers who do not wish to work Sundays.

CORPORATE FINANCE

Apple to announce plans for $97 billion cash balance

SAN FRANCISCO — Apple scheduled an announcement Monday on plans for its huge cash balance, estimated to be at least $97 billion from sales of its hugely successful gadgets, among them the iPad and iPhone.

An Apple statement said Chief Executive Tim Cook and Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer would hold a conference call at 9 a.m. EDT "to announce the outcome of the company's discussions concerning its cash balance."

Apple, with total available cash and securities at record highs - some reports said it has more cash on hand than the U.S. government - has been under pressure to pay dividends to shareholders with some of those funds. The company does not currently pay dividends on its common stock, which limits ownership of Apple shares and holds down their value.

Mr. Oppenheimer said on a quarterly conference call with analysts in January that the board was in "active" discussions on ways to use the cash. Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, haunted by lean years in the mid-90s, likely stood in the way of returning cash to shareholders. Jobs died in October.

TELEVISION

C-SPAN founder Lamb to leave CEO post

NEW YORK — Brian Lamb, who helped found the public-affairs cable network C-SPAN in 1978 and has been its CEO ever since, will step down at the end of the month, C-SPAN said Sunday.

Mr. Lamb, 70, is handing the reins to two co-CEOs, Rob Kennedy and Susan Swain, C-SPAN said. He will remain chairman of the board and take on the new title of executive chairman.

C-SPAN said the leadership transition has been years in the making. Kennedy, 55, and Swain, 57, have been co-presidents of the company since 2006. Ms. Swain joined C-SPAN in 1982, and Mr. Kennedy joined in 1987.

Washington-based C-SPAN is a nonprofit created and funded by cable- and satellite-TV companies. It employs 275 people.

MERGERS AND ACQUISITIONS

UPS reportedly near deal to buy European deliverer

NEW YORK — UPS has reached or is close to reaching a deal to buy European package-delivery company TNT Express, according to media reports Sunday.

The online editions of the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed people familiar with the talks, said the deal could be announced Monday. They put the price tag around $6.8 billion, or 5.2 billion euros.

The offer equates to 9.50 euros per share. A month ago, Netherlands-based TNT rejected an "informal" offer from United Parcel Service Inc. at 9 euros per share. TNT shares closed Friday at 9.35.

A UPS spokeswoman said Sunday that she could not confirm the reports, but the company said Friday that it was still in talks and that they were "constructive." TNT did not respond to a request for comment.

CHINA

Home prices largely down in February

BEIJING — Home prices in nearly two-thirds of China's major cities fell in February from the previous month, the government said Sunday, as moves to cool the red-hot property market continue to bite.

Of the 70 large and midsized cities tracked by the government, 45 saw new-home prices fall month-on-month, the National Bureau of Statistics said in a statement, down from 48 in January.

Prices in an additional 21 cities were stable, and just four cities experienced price rises, it added.

Beijing has introduced a range of measures aimed at curbing runaway property prices over the past year, such as bans on buying second homes, hiking minimum down payments and introducing property taxes in select cities.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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