Microsoft and Softbank will jointly offer Internet-based telephone services to corporate customers in Japan.

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Microsoft and Softbank will jointly offer Internet-based telephone services to corporate customers in Japan.

Microsoft’s Japan unit, Tokyo-based Softbank, and its Japan Telecom affiliate will sell a package that includes Internet phone, e-mail and Internet access starting in the spring, the companies said.

Microsoft is developing software for making and managing phone calls through the Internet to compete against eBay Skype Technologies.

Softbank, Japan’s second-biggest provider of high-speed Internet service, already offers Internet-based phones to consumers in Japan via its Yahoo! BB Internet access service.

Seven & I Holdings

7-Eleven owner buys Japan retailer

Seven & I Holdings, owner of 7-Eleven convenience stores in Japan and the United States, said Monday it will pay $1.13 billion to buy department-store operator Millennium Retailing in a deal creating Japan’s biggest retailer.

Aside from 7-Eleven, Seven & I also owns the Ito-Yokado supermarket chain. Millennium owns Japanese retailers Sogo and Seibu Department Stores.

Their combined revenue would come to around $38.8 billion for the year ended Feb. 28, making Seven & I the biggest in Japan’s retail industry.

Seven-Eleven Japan became a shareholder in Dallas-based 7-Eleven in 1991 and finished buying all the shares in November.


Oil cartel, Russia to meet annually

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and Russia agreed Monday to hold annual ministerial meetings in an effort to improve oil-market transparency as Russia assumes Group of Eight leadership.

The decision was reached during talks in Moscow between OPEC President Sheikh Ahmad Fahd al-Sabah and Russian Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko, a ministry official said.

Annual talks will cover energy policies, information exchange, investment in oil production and refining.

Russia is one of the world’s two biggest oil producers with OPEC member Saudi Arabia. Russian President Vladimir Putin is using the country’s position as a major oil producer to help secure a greater role in international politics.


Wealthiest man in Australia dies

Australia’s wealthiest man, media and gambling mogul Kerry Packer, 68, died Monday, his family said today.

Packer — ranked the world’s 94th-wealthiest person by Forbes magazine, with a $5 billion fortune — died at his Sydney home, according to the family statement.

He had long been in ill health, battling cancer and receiving a kidney transplant.

His media and gambling empire was centered on Publishing & Broadcasting Ltd., which owns Australian television’s Nine Network, as well as Melbourne’s Crown Casino.

Compiled from Bloomberg News and The Associated Press.