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Michaels agrees to private buyout

Arts and crafts retailer Michaels Stores Inc. has agreed to be bought by two private investment firms, Bain Capital LLC and The Blackstone Group, Michaels’ board announced Friday.

The board said in a statement that under terms of the agreement, Michaels’ shareholders will receive $44 per share in cash, valuing the transaction at $6 billion.

That represented a premium of nearly 30 percent to the closing price of the stock prior to the company’s announcement on March 20 that it was looking at strategic alternatives.

On Friday, Michaels Stores shares ended the day up $3.24, or 8.5 percent, at $41.24 on the New York Stock Exchange.

The deal, subject to shareholder approval, is expected to close by year’s end, the company said.


Law forces iPod to be compatible

French lawmakers gave final approval Friday to government-backed legislation that could force Apple Computer Inc. to make its iPod music player and iTunes online store compatible with rivals’ offerings.

Both the Senate and the National Assembly, France’s lower house, voted in favor of the copyright bill, which some analysts believe may cause Apple to close iTunes France and pull its market-leading player from the country’s shelves.

Currently, songs bought on iTunes can be played only on iPods, and an iPod can’t play downloads from other stores with similar premium content from major artists – like Napster and Sony Corp.’s Connect.

Apple, which had described an earlier draft of the copyright bill as “state-sponsored piracy,” did not respond to calls and messages seeking comment on Friday’s vote.

Elk Grove VilLage, Ill.

United recalling 125 more pilots

United Airlines said Friday it is accelerating its recall of pilots after canceling flights last weekend when not enough pilots were available.

The nation’s No. 2 carrier is recalling another 125 pilots, bringing this year’ planned total to 400, spokeswoman Jean Medina said.

The airline, a subsidiary of UAL Corp., was forced to cancel 186 flights last weekend because of a lack of available pilots.

“Our weekend reflected an aggressive flying schedule, and unfortunately severe weather on the East Coast affected crew availability,” Medina said. “We did not have adequate reserve crews and as a result flights were canceled.”