Business & Finance

TXU Corp., a leading utility holding company, posted a $4.2 billion loss for 2002 and an even larger $4.88 billion loss in the fourth quarter, mainly due to a write-off of failed European energy operations. The company, whose headquarters are in Dallas, serves more than 5 million electricity and gas customers in the US and Australia.

Despite being bankrupt, United Airlines defended its plan to form a discount subsidiary carrier - strongly opposed by unions and questioned by industry experts - as key to winning more leisure travelers. News reports did not say when the budget carrier, "code named" Starfish, would begin flying if it wins the necessary approvals. United also said it will rely more on cost-effective regional jets as it reorganizes. The world's second largest carrier lost $3.2 billion last year.

The $1.5 billion sale of Bethlehem Steel's assets to ISG (International Steel Group) is expected to be OK'd tomorrow in a meeting of the former's board of directors. The deal already has been agreed to by Bethlehem's senior executives; it also requires the approval of federal bankruptcy court and regulators. ISG, based in Cleveland, bought the assets of bankrupt LTV Corp. last March.

In corporate layoff news:

• Another 1,000 jobs are to be eliminated by the end of the first quarter by Bank of America Corp., a spokeswoman for the institution said. The bank cut more than 8,700 jobs last year.

• Circuit City, the Richmond, Va.-based electronics retailer, announced 2,000 job cuts, the closure of 10 repair facilities, and the transfer of many of its sales personnel from a commission basis to hourly wages. The 626-store chain said its increasingly knowledgeable customers no longer are as reliant on clerks for help as before.

• A bankruptcy filing and the loss of 3,200 jobs appeared imminent at Air Lib, the No. 2 carrier in France. The airline's operating license expired Wednesday, grounding all remaining flights. The government's Transportation Ministry said Air France, the No. 1 carrier, will be asked to give priority to Air Lib personnel when filling job openings.

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