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Updated: Mar 23 2013, 07:45am hrs
Sarkozy investigated in party-funding affair

Ex-French president Nicolas Sarkozy was placed under formal investigation on Thursday for abuse of weakness in a 2007 party funding case involving elderly L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, the public prosecutor said. The risk for Sarkozy, unseated May last year but considered a potential conservative candidate in the 2017 presidential race, is that he may end up plagued by suspicion for months or years, even if his lawyer says there is no case against him. Under French law, a formal investigation is the final step before a suspect is accused of a crime. Sarkozy, who only this month hinted he could make a political comeback, repeatedly has denied taking campaign funds from Bettencourt. The 90-year-old Bettencourt is France's richest woman. If found guilty, the 57-year-old Sarkozy faces a maximum three-year jail sentence and a hefty fine. But the damage to his political career could be irreversible.

Credit Suisse raised CEOs 2012 pay 34% as net fell

Credit Suisse Group, the second- biggest Swiss bank, raised CEO Brady Dougans total compensation by 34% for 2012, a year when net income declined. Dougans pay of 7.77 million Swiss francs ($8.2 million) included fixed salary of 2.5 million francs, 3 million francs in short-term and 2 million francs in long-term variable compensation, the Zurich-based bank said in its annual report on Friday. Dougan was paid 5.82 million francs for 2011. The highest-paid member on Credit Suisses executive board was Robert Shafir, who currently co-heads the private banking and wealth management division. He earned 10.59 million francs for 2012 compared with total pay of 8.5 million francs for 2011. The banks net income fell to 1.35 billion francs in 2012 from 1.95 billion francs the previous year.

Gucci-owner PPR to be renamed Kering

PPR, the French owner of Gucci and Puma, will change its name to Kering to cap a transformation into a specialist in luxury products and sporting goods. The re-branding will take place on June 18, PPR CEO Francois-Henri Pinault said at a presentation in Paris on Friday. The name, the companys fifth since listing on the Paris stock exchange in 1988, is supposed to evoke the idea of caring and signal a new chapter in the companys development, a person familiar with the plan said earlier this month. PPR, known formerly as Pinault-Printemps-Redoute and before that as Pinault-Printemps and Pinault SA, is disposing of retail assets it amassed in the past two decades to focus on luxury products and sporting goods, which are more profitable and have better growth prospects.

Pro-Assad group hacks BBCs Twitter account

The Twitter account belonging to the BBCs weather service was hacked on Thursday, the public broadcaster said. The Syrian Electronic Army, a group of pro-Assad hackers and online activists that has already disrupted the Facebook page of Barack Obama, claimed responsibility for the breach. The group has recently targeted the website and Twitter account of watchdog organisation Human Rights Watch and the Twitter account of French news service France 24. The BBC Weather Twitter feed began posting unusual messages in the early afternoon, ranging from offensive to humorous and often making reference to Syria and Middle Eastern politics. One tweet declared: Long Live #Syria Al-Assad #SEA. Soon after the Syrian Electronic Army said it had hacked the account along with several others.

Global ticket sales for movies rose 6% in 2012

Movie ticket sales around the world rose 6% last year, to $34.7 billion from $32.6 billion in 2011, as China became the worlds second-biggest market for theatrical films after the US, according to statistics released by the Motion Picture Association of America on Thursday. The Chinese box office reached $2.7 billion in 2012, up 36% from the year-earlier total, to surpass Japans $2.4 billion, the association said.