• A proposed merger between Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines and Minnesota-based Northwest Airlines, which would form the biggest airline in the world, is likely either to be concluded within weeks or collapse, sources said. Delta is likely to walk away from the deal if it can’t be concluded, possibly within two weeks, the sources said.
• A new “dot-post” Internet address in the works aims to set apart the electronic services increasingly offered by postal agencies around the world. Backers say restricting the “.post” domain name to postal agencies would instill trust in Web sites using such names. The Internet’s key oversight agency, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, is trying to work out contract terms for the suffix.
• Google said the proposed takeover of rival Yahoo by Microsoft “raises troubling questions” for Web users. Google questioned whether the deal would let Microsoft “attempt to exert the same sort of inappropriate and illegal influence over the Internet” that it did with personal computers.
• Embattled French bank Societe Generale faces fresh troubles today when a trial opens in Paris involving a vast money-laundering scam between France and Israel. Four banks, including Societe Generale, and 138 persons, including the bank’s chairman, Daniel Bouton, are on trial over the multibillion-dollar scam that reportedly began in the late 1990s.
• French investigators have questioned several executives at Societe Generale as part of a probe into the futures trader that the bank has blamed for billions of dollars in losses, a judicial official said. Xavier de la Maisonneuve, the bank’s business ethics specialist, answered investigators’ questions, as did an executive charged with carrying out an audit of the trader’s department.
• China‘s biggest bank said it has received approval to buy a 20 percent stake in South Africa‘s biggest lender, reportedly for $5.46 billion, the latest big-ticket overseas expansion by Chinese investors. The deal between state-owned Industrial & Commercial Bank of China and Standard Bank Group is one of China’s biggest foreign corporate acquisitions to date.
• Entrepreneur Richard Branson‘s Virgin Group, private equity firm Olivant and an in-house team are all expected to lodge rescue bids by today’s deadline for stricken mortgage lender Northern Rock. Northern Rock and the government have said that Virgin was their preferred bidder. However, many shareholders have expressed support for the Olivant offer.
• Portugal plans to increase exports to Venezuela through an agreement signed yesterday as it tries to balance trade with the Latin American oil exporter. Portugal expects the deal to boost exports to Venezuela from $20 million to $300 million.
From wire dispatches and staff reports