Other items: Apple backing gives Blu-ray boost over rival format; Instant messaging grows on BlackBerry; and more.

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Deutsche Lufthansa, Europe’s No. 2 biggest airline, said it’s close to a takeover of unprofitable Swiss International Air Lines in a deal that would eliminate another European national carrier.

The companies need approval by their boards and Swiss’s major shareholders, the airlines said yesterday. Once approved, Lufthansa said it would submit an offer based on the recent average share price to minority shareholders, who own 14 percent of Swiss.

Lufthansa and Swiss, whose predecessor Swissair Group was the region’s seventh-biggest before its collapse in 2001, last held merger talks in 2003 as both carriers felt the effects of competition from discount airlines.

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Lufthansa has ordered 15 of Airbus’ new A380 jets and will start taking delivery in 2007. It will need passengers to fill the planes, the world’s largest with 555 seats, and Swiss would be a good feeder system, said Frank Skodzik, an analyst with WestLB in Dusseldorf, Germany.

Apple Computer

Backing gives Blu-ray boost over rival format

Apple Computer is supporting the Blu-ray format for next-generation DVDs, giving it a boost over rival format HD-DVD in the competition to set a new standard for recording high-definition video and other digital information.

Both technologies promise more storage and enhanced video quality over current DVDs, including the ability to record high-definition video. Both can be used to store movies, games, photos and other digital information.

Apple will become a member of the board of the Blu-ray Disc Association, the consortium that supports and promotes the Blu-ray format, it said in a statement.

Other members include Japanese electronics makers Sony and Matsushita, Dell, Samsung and The Walt Disney Co.

The HD-DVD format is backed by Toshiba, NEC and others.

Backers of Blu-ray say it is superior because it has a higher storage capacity, while supporters of HD-DVD say it is more compatible with current DVD technology and is less costly to make.


Instant messaging grows on BlackBerry

SUNNYVALE, Calif. — Instant messaging will become a more prominent feature on BlackBerrys under an agreement announced today between Internet powerhouse Yahoo! Inc. and Research In Motion, maker of the popular handheld wireless devices.

Yahoo!’s instant messaging software will be installed on BlackBerrys in “the coming months,” the companies said.

Instant messaging has been possible on one Blackberry model by using third-party software. This will mark the first time Research In Motion has installed the application on all of the devices.

Research In Motion plans to allow owners of existing Blackberry models to download Yahoo!’s instant-messaging software.

The Yahoo! deal isn’t exclusive, leaving the door open for other instant-messaging services to negotiate similar deals with Research In Motion.

Lockheed Martin

Striking machinists to vote on proposal

MARIETTA, Ga. — Lockheed Martin and the Machinists union reached a tentative agreement yesterday in a five-day-old strike affecting nearly 3,000 workers.

A union vote on the new agreement is scheduled tomorrow, and workers could return to the Marietta, Ga., plant by Wednesday if the pact is approved, said Cornell Stevens, president of Machinists union Local 709.

About 7,800 workers are at the plant, which makes the F/A-22 Raptor fighter plane and the C-130J Hercules cargo plane.

Southwest Airlines

Fares increased for most markets

DALLAS — Southwest Airlines has raised its fares by $1 to $3 one-way in most markets because of fuel costs.

Southwest spokeswoman Linda Rutherford said yesterday the fare increases implemented Friday had been long planned and not prompted by other airlines’ recent increases.

Rutherford said Southwest’s increases were effective for all but a few markets, including Pittsburgh, where Southwest is entering in May.

Compiled from The Associated Press and Bloomberg News