Microsoft loss caps chaotic week

It has been a chaotic week for investors, with shocks coming from major companies on both side of the Atlantic.

Microsoft Corp admitted its largest acquisition in the internet sector was effectively worthless and wiped out any profit for the last quarter, as it announced a $6.2bn (€4.9bn) charge to write down the value of an online advertising agency that it purchased five years ago.

The announcement came as a surprise, but did not shock investors, who had largely forgotten Microsoft’s purchase of aQuantive in 2007, which was initially expected to boost Microsoft’s online advertising revenue and counter rival Google’s purchase of the digital ad company DoubleClick.

GlaxoSmithKline agreed to plead guilty and pay $3bn to resolve criminal and civil allegations that it illegally promoted prescription drugs and failed to report safety data.

The settlement, the largest ever in a healthcare fraud case in the US, includes a criminal fine of $956.8m, the Justice Department said. London-based Glaxo will also forfeit $43m, the US said.

The never-ending story of the debacle at Ulster Bank has left thousands of customers’ finances up in the air, with promise after promise that the “glitch” will be resolved broken.

Then the trio of resignations at Barclays’s come amid a deepening dispute about whether the Bank of England pushed the lender to submit artificially low Libor rates during the financial crisis.

Yesterday, Robert Diamond stepped down as chief executive officer of Britain’s second-biggest bank and Jerry Del Missier resigned as chief operating officer, London-based Barclays said in a statement.

Chairman Marcus Agius, 65, will quit once he has found a replacement for Diamond, who has worked at the bank for the past 16 years and oversaw its investment banking expansion.

The three are leaving after regulators fined the bank a record £290m (€360m) for attempting to rig the London interbank offered rate for profit.

With Diamond due to appear before a parliamentary finance committee tomorrow to answer their questions, Barclays released a note of a 2008 call purporting to show that Paul Tucker, the central bank’s then markets director, hinted the firm could cut its Libor rates.

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