EU BEAUTY BAN: The European Parliament voted Wednesday in favor of legislation that, if passed by all European Union member states, will ban EU cosmetic companies from testing all new products on animals and bar imports of all new beauty products tested on animals by 2009. The legislation puts to rest years of disputes over how tough new regulations should be, but it could set the stage for a possible trade dispute with the U.S., if companies cannot find alternatives to animal testing in six years. The rules will not affect some 8,000 cosmetic ingredients tested on animals that are already on the market.

PPR’S GUCCI STAKE: Cutting the size of the bill coming due in 2004 and mirroring a similar move last month, Pinault-Printemps-Redoute SA added 1.1 percent to its stake in Gucci Group NV during the past two months. According to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, PPR, through its Scholefield Goodman BV subsidiary in The Netherlands, spent $102.9 million for a total of 1,104,000 common shares of Gucci between Dec. 27 and Jan. 15, boosting its stake in the Dutch luxury powerhouse to 55.2 percent of outstanding shares. Because PPR has pledged to buy all shares of Gucci it doesn’t own in 2004 for $101.50 each, the transactions, at an average price of $93.20 a share, represent a savings of about $9.2 million for the French retailing giant.

S&P DOWNS GUESS: Standard & Poor’s reduced its corporate credit rating on Guess Inc. to "BB-minus" from "BB"and the firm’s subordinated debt rating to "B" from "B-plus." The outlook on Guess’ debt is negative. "BB" is the first step into noninvestment or "junk" territory, but one notch above "B." "The company’s performance in recent years has been hurt by the intensely competitive retail environment, waning consumer confidence, and consumers’ poor response to its product line," said the rating agency in a statement.

CARGO BILL TAKES OFF: A bill designed to tighten scrutiny of air cargo carried on commercial carriers was reintroduced in the Senate on Wednesday, as the audit arm of Congress released a study critical of weak security links in this mode of moving goods. Last fall, the Senate passed the legislation, but time ran out in the congressional calendar for House consideration. Among its criticisms, the General Accounting Office cited lax security by freight forwarders, the middle men who process air cargo received from manufacturers.

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