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A roundup of the latest high-tech news from The Associated Press:
• Merck reverses 2008 loss with $78M quarterly profit
FRANKFURT — German drug maker Merck KGaA said Tuesday it made a net profit in the fourth quarter, compared with a loss a year ago, as revenue rose sharply, but shares in the company slumped on a weak outlook and lowered dividend.
Merck operates a pharmaceutical production plant in Durham, N.C.
Merck, based in Darmstadt, said it earned $78 million for the fourth quarter, compared with a loss of more than $300 million in 2008. The year-ago figures were weighed down by one-time charges associated with its purchase of Swiss biotech company Serono SA.
Revenue for the October-December period rose nearly 6 percent.
"We are presenting a financial statement for 2009 with which – considering the overall circumstances of last year – we can be satisfied," Karl-Ludwig Kley, the company’s chief executive, said in the report.
"For 2010, it will be crucial whether the economic recovery trend remains stable. Merck is assuming that the group total revenues should increase by 3 to 7 percent and that the operating result could grow by 20 to 30 percent."
• Wal-Mart to buy digital movie provider Vudu
NEW YORK — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said Monday it will buy broadband entertainment provider Vudu, a deal that gives the world’s biggest retailer the ability to sell movies directly through TVs and Blu-ray players over the Internet.
With the acquisition, Wal-Mart returns to the video-on-demand business, which it tried in the past but failed. Its most recent attempt, offering movie downloads, ended in 2007 after less than a year.
Wal-Mart did not disclose the terms of the newest deal.
Vudu Inc.’s technology can deliver video to consumers who have broadband Internet access and own an Internet-ready TV or Blu-ray player.
Since August, Vudu has offered its service on LG and Mitsubishi-made devices.
In January, Vudu announced it had expanded its partnership deals to Sanyo, Sharp, Toshiba and Vizio. And it said it planned to launch an application platform that would include apps from Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, The New York Times and The Associated Press.
Vudu has licensing agreements with major movie studios and distributors for about 16,000 movies. Its movies cost $3.99 to rent or $19.99 to purchase.
• SanDisk ships 64 GB memory card for high-def video
MILPITAS, Calif. — Flash memory card maker SanDisk Corp. said Monday it has started shipping its highest-capacity card to date, which can hold 64 gigabytes worth of video, photos and other data.
SanDisk’s flash memory cards are used in mobile phones, digital still cameras and digital video cameras.
The company said the new Ultra SDXC card, which costs $350, can store more than eight hours of high-definition digital footage.
The Ultra SDXC is designed using a new specification for flash memory cards. SanDisk said only a handful of devices might currently support the new card, but that is expected to change.