British Airways has record losses

British Airways yesterday plunged to its worst-ever loss of £45 million in the first quarter, and said the cost of last week’s wildcat swipe card strike could be £40 million.

The airline suffered during the three months to the end of June from the war in Iraq and the flu-like Sars virus.

The damage came on top of the generally weaker demand for air travel caused by the global economic downturn.

Chief executive Rod Eddington said the £45 million losses, which compare with a £65 million profit for the same quarter last year, came during “the most testing period in aviation history.”

Britain’s flag-carrier said revenues fell by 10.7% in the three months, to £1.8 billion, while yields, which measure how much BA makes from each passenger, were down by 12.7%.

Despite passenger bookings ahead with 72% of its seats occupied in the quarter, BA was forced to cut ticket prices.

Monsanto profits double in Q2

St Louis: St Louis Monsanto Co, the world’s biggest developer of genetically engineered crops, said second-quarter profits doubled as sales of corn, cotton and canola seeds rose.

Net income rose to $295 million, or $1.12 a share, from $147 million, or 56 cents, a year ago. Sales rose 8.3% to $1.68 billion, the company said in a statement.

Chief Executive Hugh Grant, on the job since May, has been trying to boost revenue by introducing new seeds with genetically altered traits that enable crops to fend off bugs and fungus and resist Monsanto’s potent Roundup herbicide. Roundup sales have been slipping since it lost patent protection in 2000.

“We’ve been talking all year about our transition to seeds and traits,” Grant said on a conference call with analysts. “These results are the first touchstone that demonstrate this transition is real.”

Barr Laboratories settle patent row

New York: Barr Laboratories Inc., the third- largest US maker of birth-control pills, will begin selling a generic version of Johnson & Johnson’s Ortho Tri-Cyclen contraceptive before year’s end after settling a patent dispute.

Ortho Tri-Cyclen had sales of about $713 million in the 12 months through May, making it one of the biggest brands in the $2.4 billion US market for oral contraceptives, said Carol Cox, a spokeswoman for Pomona, New York-based Barr. A bid by Barr to take over Galen failed last month.

The US company were scheduled to go to court yesterday over a patent set to expire September 26. The agreement allows Barr to introduce its generic as early as September if Johnson & Johnson doesn’t seek, or fails to win, a six-month extension on the patent.

Disney highlights basketball deal

Burbank: Walt Disney Co chief executive Michael Eisner last year highlighted the benefits of a $2.4 billion contract that locked the company’s networks into six years of National Basketball Association television rights. That agreement made Disney’s ESPN cable channel the only network to carry all four major North American sports leagues.

Those same sports programming contracts at ESPN and Disney’s ABC broadcast network have squeezed profit at the company because the cost of TV rights has grown twice as fast as sales.

Sports fees and a jump in labour expenses at theme parks prompted Disney, the second-largest US media company, to report profit in the fiscal third quarter fell to 16 cents a share from 18 cents a year earlier.

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