Business & Finance

AOL Time Warner Inc. posted a $99 billion loss for 2002, the largest in US corporate history, with a $45.5 billion writedown on the value of its assets for the fourth quarter. At the same time, Ted Turner, who helped build the media giant but later became an outspoken critic of its management, announced he'll step down as vice chairman in May. Turner is the company's largest individual shareholder.

United Airlines' pilots vowed to fight a restructuring plan for the bankrupt carrier by "every lawful means available," even though its details have yet to be made public. According to a report in The Chicago Tribune, the plan will call for a 25 percent reduction in pilots and flight attendants and would set up a low-fare service with lower pay for both job categories. United's board, on which the pilots union holds a seat, was to take up the plan Thursday.

Accounting firm KPMG LLP is being sued by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for fraud. Federal regulators accuse the auditor of allowing former client Xerox Corp. to inflate its 1997-2000 financial results. The copiermaker paid a $10 million civil penalty in a settlement with the SEC and restated revenues. KPMG called the charges unfounded and defended its Xerox audits.

Signaling its concern that all four of the largest banks in Japan may have to be nationalized, the credit-rating agency Fitch has downgraded them, the Financial Times reported. The banks are Mizuho Holdings, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp., UFJ Trust Bank Ltd., and Mitsubishi Tokyo Financial Group (MTFG). The newspaper said the decision to lower the credit ratings reflects Fitch's "frustration" with the pace of corporate reform in Japan, even though all but MTFG have undertaken measures in recent weeks to come to terms with their massive bad-debt loads.

Hyundai Petrochemical Co. and its No. 1 lender agreed to sell the company for $1.5 billion to a consortium of South Korean rivals. As part of the deal, LG Chem and Honam Petrochemical will assume $291 million of Hyundai's debt. The company was spun off last year by its troubled corporate parent, the Hyundai Group conglomerate.

Principal Financial Group Inc. said it would lay off 500 workers by the end of February in a restructuring of its home-mortgage business. The diverse financial services provider, based in Des Moines, Iowa, said it was closing 78 branch offices due to a surge in home-loan applications being processed online and by telephone.

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