Business & Finance

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Cutbacks at Amazon.com had some employees crying foul. The online retailer said its plan to eliminate 1,300 jobs, partially through the closure of a Seattle customer service center and a distribution center in Georgia, was purely a business effort to steer itself toward profitability. But some workers questioned whether that facility was targeted because it was the one area of the company that was trying to unionize. Amazon employs 8,500 people worldwide.

In a money-saving move, Charles Schwab Corp. indicated it was ordering all employees who don't interact with customers to take off three Fridays in the next five weeks. The brokerage has been hard hit by recent Wall Street volatility that has scared off many investors. On the affected Fridays, all Schwab branches will remain open, although more than 10,000 of the company's 26,300 employees are expected to be out of the office.

Home furnishings retailer Heilig-Meyers Co., which closed half its stores in the past year, will shut 116 more outlets over the next three months, the company announced. The closures, which include five establishments under The RoomStore banner, will result in about 1,000 layoffs. Richmond, Va.-based Heilig-Meyers will be left with some 400 stores.

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In overseas developments:

* Sony Corp. filed an application for a license to open an online bank in June. If approved, the unit would have initial capitalization of $323 million, the company said.

* Sega Corp. conceded defeat in the console-making business at the hands of rivals Sony and Nintendo and announced it will end production of its Dreamcast home video game machine March 31.

* A sweetened $29 billion takeover bid by Lloyds TSB, Britain's third-largest retail bank, still was likely to be rejected by mortgage specialist Abbey National, the Financial Times reported. In December, Abbey turned down a $27 billion offer from Lloyds.

* Electrabel, a Belgian utility, planned to announce a restructuring plan that analysts said would include 2,000 layoffs.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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