Also. . .
* Japan’s second-largest brokerage, Daiwa Securities Co., and its second-largest commercial bank, Sumitomo Bank Ltd., announced a strategic alliance under which they will set up joint ventures this year in three investment banking areas. Daiwa Securities will also set up a holding company on April 1 that will own seven units, including the three joint ventures with Sumitomo.
* Merck & Co., the world’s biggest drug maker, said it will buy back as much as $5 billion in stock and raise its quarterly dividend 20% to 54 cents a share.
* Britain’s EasyJet Airline Co., a 3-year-old no-frills carrier, will buy 15 Boeing Co. 737-700 jets and take options for 15 more in an order worth about $1.2 billion.