Wal-Mart reported $1.43 billion in sales Friday, a one-day record, as the world's biggest retailer and other chains got the traditional holiday shopping season off to a strong start, with deep discounts on merchandise. The National Retail Federation expects a mediocre $209.25 billion in holiday sales overall, 4 percent above last year. If that happens, it would be the smallest increase since 1997.
In a blow to United Airlines' efforts to avoid bankruptcy, share prices in parent UAL Corp. fell by almost one-third Friday - closing at $2.51 - after its unionized mechanics rejected $700 million in wage concessions. The machinists reportedly are the carrier's only union refusing to OK the giveback. Its flight attendants approved $412 million in wage and benefit cuts Saturday, following unionized pilots and dispatchers. UAL is seeking $5.2 billion in labor givebacks in its bid to secure a $1.8 billion federal loan guarantee.
Schneider Electric, a world leader in building control systems for industry, utilities, and transportation facilities, is on the verge of abandoning its difficult legal battle to keep merger partner Legrande SA, reports said. The latter won a court ruling Friday to keep Schneider from selling off some of its assets in order to gain European Union approval for the $4 billion deal agreed to early last year. When the merger was blocked, Schneider accepted a $2.4 billion offer for all of Legrande from a consortium led by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts of the US. But then the European Court of Appeals overturned the EU decision, giving Schneider until Dec. 10 to decide whether to resubmit the merger for consideration or to sell Legrande to the consortium for a substantial loss. If Schneider resubmits, it will owe the consortium a breakup fee of more than $100 million. Both companies are French. Schneider is based in Rueil-Malmaison; Legrande in Limoges Cedex.
Plans to cut another 450 jobs were announced by BAE Systems, the world's fourth-largest aerospace company. BAE said remaining orders for its Hawk jet trainer would take no more than a year to complete. The layoffs come on top of 700 others announced earlier at the company's Brough, England, assembly plant.