Business & Finance

DaimlerChrysler's board is expected to recommend trimming annual dividends to stockholders by one-third this week, the Financial Times reported. What would be the first such cut since the 1998 merger of the German and US automakers follows a steep drop in profits. Citing company insiders, the newspaper said the board will consider reducing payouts to $1.30 per share from $2.03 last year, saving more than $860 million. A DaimlerChrysler spokesman declined to comment, but said the company, based jointly in Auburn Hills, Mich., and Stuttgart, Germany, would release preliminary key figures tomorrow.

New signs emerged that the cooperation of Russia that allowed OPEC to impose its latest oil-production cutback will end after March. Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov told the World Economic Forum in New York over the weekend that the Kremlin soon will announce a strategy to "increase Russia's presence in the energy markets." In December, Russia, a nonmember, bowed to OPEC pressure and agreed to a 150,000 barrel-a-day drop in exports. But the agreement covered only 2002's first quarter, and it has resulted in a glut of crude as well as unsold gasoline and other refined products on the domestic market. That, in turn, has reduced both oil-company profits and government tax receipts. Russia is the No. 2 oil exporter, after Saudi Arabia, and depends on oil and gas for 40 percent of its revenues. A return to previous export levels, analysts said, risks a price war with OPEC, which is expected to decide at a scheduled March 15 meeting to leave production quotas unchanged. OPEC is seeking to stabilize futures prices in the $22- to $28-a-barrel range.

Gemplus International, a leader in supplying smart cards for cellphones as well as magnetic-strip cards and card-readers, is expected to announce 1,200 layoffs, reports said. The company is based in Luxembourg.

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