Business & Finance
International reaction against President Bush's hiking of tariffs on imported steel was swift and negative, especially among European governments. The European Union, whose steel companies sell about 6 million tons a year to the US, announced it already was drafting "safeguard measures" that would keep the cheap imports blocked by Bush's move from flooding the Continent. EU trade commissioner Pascal Lamy also accused the US of violating World Trade Organization rules and said his office would seek compensation for damages once those are quantified. South Korea, the world's sixth-largest steel-producing nation, said it would join in the EU appeal. China, Russia, Japan, Brazil, and Australia also protested angrily. Only Canada welcomed Bush's move. (Story, page 1.)
Hewlett-Packard's bitterly contested acquisition of Compaq Computer Corp. won a key thumbs up from an influential proxy adviser. Institutional Shareholder Services said that despite substantial risks, the $22 billion merger had excellent long-term prospects. Walter Hewlett, son of one of Hewlett-Packard's founders, is leading a fierce campaign to derail the deal, which will be put to a shareholder vote March 19.
After rejecting a previous version, United Airlines' unionized mechanics and aircraft cleaners OKd a new contract by a less-than-enthusiastic 59 percent, averting a strike that could have forced the carrier into bankruptcy. The deal provides substantial raises for the workers, their first in eight years. But UAL, United's parent company, has warned it will be pressing them and other workers to accept pay cuts as part of a turnaround plan for the beleaguered airline, which lost a record $2.1 billion last year.
The first class-action lawsuit as a result of the $691 million in losses reported by Allied Irish Bank (AIB) was filed by a group of US investors, the Financial Times reported. The complaint alleges that AIB was aware of the activities of an employee at its Baltimore subsidiary who is accused of losing the money through risky trades and that the bank knowingly published false financial reports for at least two years before revealing the losses last month.