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US judge OKs partial settlement in e-book case
by Staff Writers
New York (AFP) Sept 6, 2012


China's computer maker Lenovo buys into Brazil
Shanghai (AFP) Sept 6, 2012 - Chinese computer giant Lenovo said it would acquire Brazilian consumer electronics manufacturing group CCE, in an attempt to tap new markets.

Lenovo will pay 300 million reals ($147 million) for 100 percent ownership in three firms that make up CCE to complete the acquisition, according to a Lenovo statement posted on its website late Wednesday.

The Chinese firm sees growth potential in the Brazilian consumer electronics market and aims to enhance its presence in Latin America through the deal.

"Brazil is one of the world's largest personal computer markets... the market is expected to continue to grow," Lenovo said in a separate statement to the Hong Kong Stock exchange, where it is listed.

The acquisition will provide Lenovo with "a stronger market position, more comprehensive product offerings, enhanced brand awareness, and a larger scale of operation and presence in Brazil," it said.

Lenovo had 14.7 percent of worldwide personal computer shipments as of the second quarter this year, second only to the 14.9 percent share held by industry giant Hewlett-Packard, according to research firm Gartner.

Shares of Lenovo were up 3.43 percent to HK$6.33 ($0.82) on Thursday afternoon in Hong Kong trading after the announcement.

A US judge approved a partial settlement Thursday in a lawsuit over e-book price-fixing, allowing three publishers to end a deal with Apple that became the target of a government probe.

Judge Denise Cote signed an order approving the settlement between the Justice Department and the publishers, Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster.

Those three firms reached a settlement in April when the US government launched its case against Apple and other publishing houses "for conspiring to end e-book retailers' freedom to compete on price."

The ruling came as a surprise because Apple and others had been pressing for hearings on the impact of the deal, but the judge said this was not needed.

Cote said in a 45-page opinion that the settlement was "appropriate" and "secures a remedy that is closely related to the violations alleged in the complaint."

She added that she agreed with the government argument that finalizing the settlement "would more quickly restore retail price competition to consumers than a trial."

The ruling came after a flurry of public comments, including many suggesting the settlement could hurt some rivals in the sector.

But she said "this is not the type of harm that the Sherman (antitrust) Act is designed to prevent. The purpose of the Sherman Act is not to protect businesses from the working of the market; it is to protect the public from the failure of the market."

The lawsuit will proceed against Apple along with publishers Macmillan and Penguin Group for what US authorities called a conspiracy to raise prices and limit competition for e-books.

US officials said the scheme was aimed at ending a discounting effort by Amazon, which sold most e-books at $9.99 until the new pricing plan was forced on the retail giant.

The move almost instantly raised the prices consumers paid for e-books, authorities said.

The lawsuit was filed amid probes on both sides of the Atlantic over the efforts to limit discounting on electronic books, which had been dominated by Amazon until Apple launched its iPad in 2010.

The suit filed in US District Court in New York said the conspiracy dating back to 2009 involved schemes to limit Amazon's control of the market.

The lawsuit said the publishers conspired with Apple to end the longstanding "wholesale model" in which e-books were sold to retailers, which had the power to establish their own prices.

They replaced this with a so-called "agency model" where publishers would have the power to set the prices retailers charge for the e-books. Under this arrangement, Apple was guaranteed a 30 percent commission on each e-book sold.

Prior to the introduction of Apple's iPad in April 2010, online retail giant Amazon, maker of the Kindle e-book reader, sold electronic versions of many new best sellers for $9.99.

After the agency model was adopted, the prices rose to between $12.99 and $16.99, the suit said, and price competition among retailers was "unlawfully eliminated." Retailers including Amazon were forced to accept the new model in order to sell the e-books.

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