Business & Finance

Bankrupt WorldCom wouldn't comment on a published report that it is negotiating a deal with the Securities and Exchange Commission to settle fraud charges, even as a court-appointed examiner said another restatement of questionable accounting figures by the company may be necessary. Former US Attorney General Richard Thornburgh said the extent of the fraud likely will exceed the $7.68 billion previously disclosed. Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reported that terms of the deal WorldCom is discussing with the SEC likely will include a court injunction barring the company from violating securities law. For its part, the SEC would resolve individual charges against mid- and low-level WorldCom executives who then wouldn't face prosecution by the Justice Department.

What was to have been the largest initial public offering in Asia this year was cut by more than half by China Telecom Corp. The company said it was reducing the shares in the IPO from 16.8 billion to 7.5 billion, although it intends to stick to the planned price range per share: $19 to $22. The sale originally was to have taken place last week but was postponed because of weak interest by institutional investors. It was rescheduled for Nov. 14-15, on the heels of the Communist Party Congress in Beijing.

Two key players in the utilities sector formed a joint venture to buy up selected assets from energy companies, the Financial Times reported. Trans-Elect Inc., based in a Virginia suburb of Washington, and Miller, McConville & Co. of New York plan to bid mostly for integrated systems of troubled energy traders and then divide ownership by respective business focus. Trans-Elect is an energy-transmission company; Miller, McConville is a buyout specialist in the electricity and natural-gas fields.

In layoff news:

• Another 1,750 jobs will be cut by Applied Materials Inc., the world's leading maker of tools to produce and test computer chips, the company said. The layoffs come on top of 3,700 others announced since September 2001. Applied Materials is based in Santa Clara, Calif.

• Furukawa Electric Co., the largest maker of optical fiber in Japan, said it will cut another 500 jobs by next March. The company announced 200 layoffs earlier this year.

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