Microsoft Shares Soar in After-Hours as Tech Giant and Government Hail Appointment of Mediator

Chicago Judge Richard Posner named to mediate antitrust case.
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The judge in the

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

antitrust trial referred the case for "voluntary mediation" to Judge Richard Posner, the head of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago.

Thomas Penfield Jackson

, who is presiding over the trial, recently found that Mister Softee played hardball, using monopoly power to harm consumers, competitors and customer companies.

Both the U.S.

Department of Justice

and Microsoft reacted positively to the referral to a mediator. The case is set to continue with arguments on Feb. 22, but is subject to change if the mediation is successful and produces a settlement acceptable to the judge.

A spokeswoman for the Justice Department said it "has always been willing to seek a settlement that would promote competition, innovation and consumer choice," according to

Reuters

. Shares of Microsoft were up 4 7/8 to 90 3/16 in after-hours trading on

Island ECN

. (see table)

For more on the recent Microsoft decision, check out the

story written this evening by

TheStreet.com/NYTimes.com

joint newsroom.

--

Patrick M. Fitzgibbons

In other post-close news (earnings estimates from First Call/Thomson Financial; earnings reported on a diluted basis unless otherwise specified):

Mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures

Chase Manhattan Bank

(CMB)

again extended its tender offer for

Hambrecht & Quist

(HQ)

as it awaits regulatory approval of the $1.35 billion deal. Chase extended the offer to buy Hambrecht shares for $50 each until Nov. 29 from Nov. 19. Chase made a similar move earlier this month as well.

Bell Atlantic

(BEL)

said talks with

Grupo Iusacell

(CEL) - Get Report

for a wireless expansion deal in Mexico have been terminated.

The

Delaware Court of Chancery

scheduled a hearing on Jan. 24 to consider

Pfizer's

(PFE) - Get Report

lawsuit challenging the $68.7 billion merger agreement between

Warner-Lambert

(WLA)

and

American Home Products

(AHP)

.

Pfizer contends that certain antitakeover provisions in the merger agreement, including a breakup fee of up to $2 billion and an option for American Home to acquire 14.9% of Warner-Lambert stock if the agreement is broken, are "onerous and unlawful." Pfizer said the hearing will rule on its claim that the stock option granted to American Home and other lock-up provisions are violations of Warner-Lambert directors' fiduciary duty.

Earlier this week, Pfizer asked the court to expedite its lawsuit so a trial could begin by Dec. 13, and said it would begin soliciting shareholders to remove Warner's board of directors. Shareholders of Warner and American Home are scheduled to vote on the merger May 15.

Westinghouse Air Brake

(WAB) - Get Report

and

MotivePower Industries

(MPO)

said they completed their merger after shareholders approved the deal.

Offerings and stock actions

Exodus

(EXDS)

said its board set a 2-for-1 stock split.

Hewlett-Packard

(HWP)

said it approved the repurchase of up to $2 billion in stock.