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BUSINESS TODAY

DANKA, STAPLES DO DEAL: Danka Business Systems said Wednesday it extended its copier-service agreement with retailer Staples by three years. Under the deal, Danka will replace at least 1,335 Xerox analog copiers at Staples stores throughout the United States with high-volume digital copiers made by Canon. London-based Danka has its U.S. headquarters in St. Petersburg.

SHELLING OUT FOR OIL, GAS: Royal Dutch/Shell Group on Wednesday said it will spend $45-billion and sell off up to $12-billion worth of assets to reinvigorate its underperforming oil and natural gas business. From 2004 to 2006, the Anglo-Dutch energy giant will spend $15-billion a year on its portfolio of assets. Of that, executives said at a strategy presentation, $11.5-billion will be spent on exploration and production, and gas and power. Shell executives once again deferred an update on an overhaul of the group's corporate structure. The company also said it will aim for oil projects that cost up to $25 a barrel to extract, up from $20 a barrel, on a bet that higher oil prices are here to stay.

WORK GETS SLIGHTLY DEADLIER: The number of private sector workers who died on the job rose 0.5 percent in 2003 to 5,559, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. The three most common causes were highway accidents (24 percent), falls (12 percent) and homicide (11 percent). The construction industry had the most fatalities, with 1,126.

PILOTS RETURN TO TABLE: Pilots at US Airways Group Inc. resumed negotiations Wednesday with management on a new labor contract with the bankrupt airline, even as the company made clear that it will now be seeking greater concessions. Meanwhile, US Airways chief executive Bruce Lakefield told employees Wednesday evening that the airline will seek temporary contract concessions from all unions. If the unions do not agree, the airline on Friday will ask the bankruptcy court to impose the temporary concessions. He did not detail the scope of those concessions. US Airways' failure to extract $800-million a year in cost cuts from its unions caused the airline to file for bankruptcy protection Sept. 12.

PRUDENTIAL BUYING INTO JAPAN: Prudential Financial Inc., the third-largest U.S. life insurer, agreed to buy Artemis SA's business in Japan for $182-million, before new rules spur competition in the world's second-largest insurance market. Prudential Life Insurance Co., a Japanese unit of the Newark, N.J.-based company, will acquire Aoba Life Insurance Co. this year, Yutaka Sammori, president of the unit, said. Prudential is expanding in Japan before banks are allowed to sell more policies to individuals, part of a government drive to channel more of individuals' 1,400-trillion yen of assets into financial products.

INK EXPERT TRIAL STARTS: A jury of eight men and four women was selected Wednesday to hear the perjury trial of a Secret Service ink expert who testified for the government at Martha Stewart's trial earlier this year. Opening statements were scheduled for this morning in the trial of Larry Stewart, who is not related to the homemaking entrepreneur. Prosecutors say Larry Stewart lied repeatedly on the stand during his testimony, exaggerating the role he played in testing ink on a stock worksheet that was used as evidence against Martha Stewart and her former stockbroker. Larry Stewart has pleaded not guilty, and his lawyers have said prosecutors simply may not be "aware of all the things that Mr. Stewart did." The two perjury counts carry up to 10 years in prison.

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