News In Brief

Office Depot Inc. announced it will cut its contract sales force by 10 percent, close 70 North American stores, and take a fourth-quarter charge up to $300 million in a vast restructuring effort. The No. 1 US office-supply retailer, based in Delray Beach, Fla., has about 48,000 workers. As part of the restructuring, the company will reduce the number of products available but open about 50 new stores, mostly in markets where it has a strong position.

Seven current and former Microsoft Corp. employees plan to sue the computer software giant for $5 billion for discrimination, citing racial bias, the plaintiffs' lawyers said. The suit, which was to be filed in US District Court for the District of Columbia, is the second bias suit against the Redmond, Wash.-based company in three months. The complaint alleges discrimination in evaluations, compensation, promotions, and wrongful termination.

DaimlerChrysler and its South Korean partner Hyundai are about to sign a 50-50 joint venture to build light trucks and buses, a German business magazine reported. The Wirtschaftswoche weekly said that the companies plan to produce 60,000 trucks each year for the South Korean market and a further 60,000 for export. DaimlerChrysler bought a 10 percent stake in Hyundai last June.

The British supermarket chain Asda, which was bought by Wal-Mart in 1999, announced an investment scheme of $675 million that will lead to the creation of 5,000 jobs. Asda said it would erect nine new stores, rebuild or re-site four existing ones, and expand a further six. It also announced plans to refurbish 25 percent of outlets. The scheme, which Asda said would be its biggest to date, is part of plans announced a year ago to create 27,000 jobs over five years, a company spokesman said.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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