A consortium of Middle Eastern investors and U.S. buyout firms is preparing a $50 billion offer for Dow Chemical in what could be the world's...

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Microsoft said today it will offer Windows Live Messenger on Xbox 360 so that gamers can instant message directly from the console to Windows-based computers and Windows Mobile-powered devices.

The company said the Xbox 360 “Spring Update” will start the week of May 7.

Gamers will be able to use the controller or connect a USB keyboard to the console to send messages. The company expects to launch a keyboard for the Xbox 360 in the summer.

More than 200 million people use Windows Live Messenger, Microsoft said, and more than 6 million Xbox 360 owners are connected to the Xbox Live online community.

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Dow Chemical

Report: Group works on $50 billion bid

A consortium of Middle Eastern investors and U.S. buyout firms is preparing a $50 billion offer for Dow Chemical in what could be the world’s biggest leveraged buyout, a British newspaper said Sunday.

Quoting sources close to the deal, The Sunday Express said a financing package has been put in place for a breakup bid of between $52 and $58 a share, and an offer could come by the end of this week.

At least half of the capital would be from investors from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE and Oman, with the rest from U.S. buyout firms including Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, the report said.

Representatives of Dow Chemical and KKR were not immediately available for comment. The story follows reports in recent months that strategic changes were afoot at Dow, which has been moving toward a focus on specialty chemicals.

Berkshire Hathaway

Stake in BNSF nears 11 percent

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway has acquired a 10.9 percent stake in BNSF Railway (BNSF), according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings, making the billionaire’s company the largest holder.

Berkshire owned 39 million shares of the second-largest U.S. railroad as of April 5.

The market value of the railroad stake is $3.2 billion.

Marc Hamburg, Berkshire Hathaway treasurer, declined to discuss the investment.

Bensussen Deutsch

“Idol” product contract extended

Woodinville-based Bensussen Deutsch & Associates (BD&A) is announcing today its “American Idol” merchandise contract with FremantleMedia North America has been extended through 2010.

FremantleMedia, the show’s co-producer, pays BD&A a fee to help “Idol” sponsors develop product tie-ins, then get the merchandise made and distributed to retailers. BD&A also collects a share of the sales.

“Idol” merchandise this year goes far beyond T-shirts.

Examples: Dreyer’s sells five “Idol” ice-cream flavors; Pringles has a special backpack; and MDI Entertainment produces “Idol”-branded lottery tickets in several states, including Washington and California.

BD&A Chief Executive Jay Deutsch said there will be 10 million items of “Idol” merchandise this year.


Online video work with TV shows

Video site Break.com is announcing today it has a deal with Endemol USA, the TV-production company behind “Deal or No Deal” and “Fear Factor,” to produce a 30-episode original show for the site.

Break ranked seventh in U.S. video Web sites in March, according to Web measurement firm HitWise. This puts Break behind online giants such as YouTube and Yahoo! but ahead of the hundreds of smaller sites jockeying for viewers.


Database aims to track thieves

Two of the shopping industry’s largest trade groups are joining forces with the FBI to create a database that tracks retail-crime gangs, which they say are becoming increasingly organized.

About 35 companies are participating in the database, including Limited Brands; American Eagle Outfitters; Mervyns and Bealls department stores; and Macy’s.

Compiled from Reuters, Bloomberg News, USA Today and The Washington Post

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