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ECONOMICS REPORT - Year in Economic News, Part 2 - 2004-12-30

Broadcast: December 31, 2004

I’m Gwen Outen with the VOA Special English Economics Report.

The Russian oil company, Yukos, continued its legal battle with the Russian government in two-thousand-four. The government reported this year that Yukos owed more than twenty-seven thousand million dollars in taxes. Russian officials ordered Yukos to pay the debt by selling one of its businesses – Yuganskneftegaz. It is the main oil producing business of Yukos.

Yukos sought protection from its creditors in a court in the United States. Judge Letitia Clark barred the sale of Yuganskneftegaz for ten days. She also barred Russia’s largest natural gas company, Gazprom, from buying the company.

But within days, a Russian business, the Baikal Finance Group, bought Yuganskneftegaz. The group paid about nine thousand three hundred million dollars.

Soon after, officials of Baikal Finance Group offered to sell their company to the Russian company Rosneft Oil. Last week, it was announced that Gazprom would join with Rosneft in January. The Russian government is the majority owner of Gazprom.

Lawyers for Yukos say the offer to buy Yuganskneftegaz is illegal. They say Gazprom is using companies it controls to seize the most valuable part of Yukos.

A decision was reached in another court case last week. The European Court of First Instance in Luxembourg ruled against Microsoft Corporation in a dispute with the European Union. The court ordered Microsoft to pay about six hundred sixty-six million dollars. It also ordered the company to change the way its sells software products in Europe.

Software is the group of commands that makes a computer work. Microsoft connects its software products to its operating system, Windows. About ninety percent of all computers use Windows.

The European Commission on Competition ruled in March that combining, or bundling, software was unfair. It ordered Microsoft to provide a version of Windows without other Microsoft software products. The company is appealing the ruling.

And, we started the year by reporting on the decreasing value of the American dollar. Since then, the dollar has dropped to a record low against the main money in Europe, the euro. The dollar also has lost about four percent of its value against the Japanese yen. Experts say the falling value of the dollar makes American exports less costly.

This VOA Special English Economics Report was written by Mario Ritter. This is Gwen Outen.