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-Europe News Digest, AP
Associated Press
2013-07-31 07:42 PM

TOP STORIES FROM EUROPE AT 1100 GMT

ITALY-BERLUSCONI

ROME -- Silvio Berlsuconi's 20-year political career is a risk of abruptly ending as his challenge to a fraud conviction enters a second day. Berlusconi and three others were convicted in October of tax fraud in the purchase of TV rights for Berlusconi's Mediaset network. The three-time former premier was sentenced to four years with a five-year ban on public office, which was confirmed on appeal.

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SWEDEN-SERIAL-KILLING-CASE

STOCKHOLM -- Prosecutors on Wednesday dropped the last remaining charges against a man who was once considered Sweden's worst serial killer, but whose eight murder convictions were overturned after he withdrew his confessions. Psychiatric officials will now evaluate whether 63-year-old Sture Bergwall can be released from the secure mental health unit where he's been held since 1991. By Karl Ritter.

GERMANY-BLACK CANDIDATE

HALLE, Germany -- Karamba Diaby makes his way through the historic heart of Halle with the speed of a seasoned politician: slowly. More than two decades of involvement in local politics means the 51-year-old immigrant can't go more than a few steps without being stopped for a chat. Two months before Germany's general elections each handshake and greeting carries added significance because Diaby is intent on becoming the country's first black member of Parliament. He listens patiently to his constituents and responds in fluent German with a strong Franco-African accent, courtesy of his Senegalese origins. By Frank Jordans.

BRITAIN-EUTHANASIA-REJECTED

LONDON -- A British appeals court upheld a law against euthanasia in rejecting appeals from two severely disabled men who argued that doctors should be allowed to legally kill them. The two men -- one of whom died of pneumonia last year -- claimed their right to "private and family life" as guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights was being violated since they were not allowed to choose how they wanted to die.

NSA-SURVEILLANCE-SNOWDEN

MOSCOW -- The father of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden said on Russian television that he is grateful to the Kremlin for protecting his son. Speaking on state Rossiya 24 television in remarks broadcast Wednesday, Lon Snowden of Allentown, Pennsylvania, thanked President Vladimir Putin and his government for the "courage" they have shown in keeping his son safe.

BUSINESS AND FINANCIAL

EUROPE-ECONOMY

LONDON -- Further evidence emerged Wednesday that the eurozone economy is on the mend after struggling with a recession that's seen unemployment edge toward the 20 million mark. Figures from Eurostat, the EU's statistics office, showed that the number of unemployed across the 17 European Union countries that use the euro fell by 24,000 in June to 19.27 million. That's the first fall since April 2011 and adds to the weight of recent evidence that suggests the recession in the eurozone has -- or is about to -- come to an end. By Pan Pylas.

GERMANY-EARNS-VOLKSWAGEN

FRANKFURT, Germany -- German automaker Volkswagen AG says net profit fell 50 percent in the second quarter compared to the previous year, when earnings were boosted by a one-time accounting plus related to its takeover of Porsche. Excluding the Porsche effect, the company's operating earnings rose 1.8 percent in what it called "a difficult market environment," beating analyst estimates and indicating the company was holding its own in a difficult European auto market. It said it would still achieve its earnings goal for the year. By David McHugh

GERMANY-SIEMENS-CEO

BERLIN -- Siemens has appointed finance chief Joe Kaeser as its new chief executive, handing a manager with over 30 years' experience at the industrial conglomerate the task of improving its fortunes after missed profit targets led to the departure of predecessor Peter Loescher. Siemens AG said Wednesday its supervisory board unanimously chose the 56-year-old Kaeser. It said a new chief financial officer will be appointed "in due course."

FRANCE-EARNS-EADS

PARIS -- European aerospace group EADS is to change its name to Airbus and shake up its corporate structure as part of push to give its civil aviation division more prominence. As well as the name change next year, European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co. will reshuffle its space and military units into one division, the company said Wednesday. It also unveiled a 31 percent increase in first-half net profits on the same time last year to 759 million euros ($1 billion). By Greg Keller.

FRANCE-EARNS-BNP PARIBAS

PARIS -- BNP Paribas says its net profit slipped nearly 5 percent in the second quarter as investment banking continued to suffer from the tough economic conditions in Europe. France's largest bank made a net profit of 1.76 billion euros ($2.3 billion) in the April to June quarter, down from 1.85 billion euros a year earlier.

EARNS-AB-INBEV

AMSTERDAM -- Budweiser maker Anheuser-Busch InBev SA saw its second quarter earnings fall by nearly a quarter due to higher taxes and higher financing costs. The world's largest brewer said Wednesday that its net profit during the period was $1.50 billion (1.13 billion euros), or $0.93 per share. That was down from $1.94 billion, or $1.21 per share in the same period a year ago. The fall came despite a 1.9 percent increase in revenues to $10.6 billion, on a mix of higher prices and lower volumes. By Toby Sterling.

ITALY-FIAT-CHRYSLER

MILAN -- Italy's Fiat says it remains confident that it will win its court challenge to determine how much it should pay to buy some outstanding shares of U.S. automaker Chrysler. Fiat in a statement Wednesday acknowledged a Delaware judge's decision Tuesday to delay a decision on price pending further evidence. The ruling is likely to delay Fiat's push to buy all of the Chrysler stock it doesn't own. Fiat owns a 58.5 percent share in Chrysler, and wants to buy the rest ahead of a full merger to get more cost savings and access to Chrysler's cash.

EARNS-FIAT-INDUSTRIAL

MILAN -- Farm equipment proved to be Fiat Industrial's big-earner in the second quarter, as the Italian capital goods company reported year-on-year earnings growth of 26 percent. The company, which was spun off from Fiat's car business in 2011, said Wednesday that net profit was 272 million euros ($361 million), up from a restated 215 million euros last year, with the sales of agriculture equipment offsetting weaker truck, construction and commercial vehicle results.

FRANCE-EARNS-PEUGEOT CITROEN

PARIS -- PSA Peugeot Citroen says its losses mounted in the first half as Europe's recession ate into car sales just as it attempts to battle back from last year's record 5 billion euro ($6.6 billion) loss. The maker of Peugeot and Citroen sedans, hatchbacks and light trucks says it lost 426 million euros in the first half amid a continued slide in car sales and disruption at a key car plant near Paris where workers went on strike over the group's plans to shut factories and shed up to 8,000 jobs.

GERMANY-ECONOMY

BERLIN -- Germany's unemployment rate rose to 6.8 percent in July due to seasonal factors such as the start of the summer holiday period, but the labor market in Europe's biggest economy remained solid, official data showed Wednesday. The unadjusted jobless rate was up from 6.6 percent in June, with 2.914 million people registered as unemployed. That was an increase of 49,000 compared with the previous month, and 38,000 more than a year earlier, the Federal Labor Agency said.

BRITAIN-EARNS-DIAGEO

LONDON -- Drinks company Diageo PLC says rising spirits consumption in the U.S. helped its profit in the year to end-June to swell by 28 percent to 2.48 billion pounds ($3.79 billion). Diageo, whose brands include Johnnie Walker whiskey, Smirnoff vodka and Guinness stout, said Wednesday that sales rose 6.1 percent to 15.48 billion pounds from a year earlier.

GERMANY-BAYER-EARNS

FRANKFURT, Germany -- German drug and chemicals company Bayer AG says net profit rose 75 percent in the second quarter thanks to lower one-time charges and strong sales of new products including anti-clotting drug Xarelto and cancer drug Stivarga. But falling earnings at its high-tech materials division led the company to say it would be harder to achieve its earnings goals for the year. By David Mchugh.

BRITAIN-INVENSYS

LONDON -- France's Schneider Electric is to buy industrial software firm Invensys for a 3.4 billion pound ($5.2 billion). Schneider, which has 140,000 employees, has signaled plans to offload non-core divisions within Invensys, which develops technology for oil refineries and other sectors. Invensys has 1,100 employees in Britain and the United States.

SPORTS

SWIM WORLDS-PRELIMS

BARCELONA, Spain -- James Magnussen posted the fastest preliminaries time in the 100-meter freestyle at the world swimming championships Wednesday. The defending world champion from Australia touched in 47.71 seconds, far ahead of Konrad Czerniak of Poland at 48.50. Moved. By Paul Newberry.

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