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Based on revenues, Wal-Mart is on pace to become the world's largest company, reports said. The Bentonville, Ark., retail giant is expected to record more than $220 billion in sales after its fiscal year ends next Thursday, industry analysts said. That would surpass the $212.9 billion reported by the current world leader, oil giant ExxonMobil. Wal-Mart, with 4,150 stores in North and South America, Asia, and Europe, has averaged more than 10 percent sales growth per year over the past two decades. The list of the world's biggest companies is published each April by Fortune magazine. A Wal-Mart spokesman declined to comment on the matter.

DaimlerChrysler announced the sale of parts of its financial services division to GE Capital Corp for $1.2 billion. The deal covers its commercial real estate and asset-based lending portfolios as DaimlerChrysler proceeds with a restructuring of operations around its core automotive business. GE Capital, the financial services subsidiary of General Electric, is based in Stamford, Conn.

GE Transportation Systems, the division of General Electric that builds rail locomotives and motors for oil rigs and mining equipment, will cut 1,100 jobs, a spokesman announced. Orders have dropped from 911 in 1999 to an expected 350 this year, he said. Most of the layoffs will come at the company's main plant in Erie, Pa.

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The trade surplus that is one of the most vital indicators of Japan's economic health fell 38 percent last year, its biggest drop since 1970, the Finance Ministry in Tokyo reported. With the US, Japan's largest trading partner, the surplus declined 6.8 percent, its first in five years. But analysts said they anticipate a rebound this year if, as expected, the US economy pulls out of recession.

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