News In Brief

By , Samar Farah, and Judy Nichols

Wal-Mart and Amazon.com, the struggling online retailer secretly have been discussing a joint venture, The Sunday Times of London reported. Without citing sources, the newspaper said the two sides could be ready to announce details of a strategic alliance by the end of April. The Times said the deal would give Amazon.com a needed infusion of cash as well as a presence in Wal-Mart's 4,500 stores. Wal-Mart would gain access to the full range of Amazon's management expertise, from online ordering to home delivery.

Mail Boxes Etc., the world's largest franchiser of retail shipping centers, agreed to be acquired by United Parcel Service, the companies announced late Friday. Terms of the deal were not disclosed other than that it is in cash. San Diego-based Mail Boxes Etc. has more than 4,300 locations in 29 countries. UPS is based in Atlanta.

More than 1,000 workers were laid off and a shipyard was closed by Gulfport, Miss.-based marine engineering giant Friede Goldman Halter Inc., the company announced. A spokesman said the job cuts are considered permanent unless a dispute with a Norwegian oil-exploration company over a contract for $270 million in drilling rigs can be resolved.

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Pacific Gas & Electric, one of the two major California utilities affected by the state's ongoing power-supply crisis, won a badly needed $1.6 billion short-term line of credit, it announced late last week. PG&E said the loan - from GE Capital and Lehman Brothers - will be used to pay down or retire earlier financial obligations. PG&E, near bankruptcy because it cannot pass high energy-supply costs through to customers, controls 40 percent of the state's electricity grid with Southern California Edison. Together, their debts amount to about $12 billion.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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