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Hope that troubled media giant Vivendi Universal might survive intact was dashed Tuesday as chief executive Jean-Rene Fourtou told a shareholders meeting in Paris of his vision for a "practically debt-free" company by next year after its US theme parks division, videogames business, and film and TV studios are sold. Only Universal Music Group, the world's largest recording company; the as-yet unprofitable pay-TV unit, Canal Plus; and Vivendi's telecommunications holdings are not currently for sale, he said. Vivendi raised $7.79 billion from selling off assets last year, Fourtou told the stockholders, and it expects to raise a similar amount in 2003. Vivendi Universal posted a $25.6 billion loss last year, the largest in French corporate history.

United Airlines' mechanics, baggage handlers, and flight attendants followed other unions in ratifying revised labor contracts that will save the bankrupt carrier $2.5 billion in annual labor costs through 2008. United had vowed to ask a bankruptcy court to impose wage and other givebacks by Thursday if any unions rejected the agreements.

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced plans to close five research sites, with an unspecified number of layoffs, as it begins a widely anticipated reshuffle following last month's $57 billion takeover of rival Pharmacia Corp. The facilities to be closed are in San Francisco, suburban Chicago, France, Germany, and Canada, and employ more than 2,000 workers. Pfizer also said it would expand research centers in Michigan, making Kalamazoo County its largest manufacturing site.

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We Energies, Wisconsin's largest utility, agreed to pay $600 million to settle charges of violating federal antipollution laws. The Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency had accused the company of failing to install required emissions controls when renovating four of its coal-fired power plants in Wisconsin and one in Michigan.

The Seattle Times newspaper notified its smaller rival, the Post-Intelligencer, of intent to dissolve their joint publishing agreement, claiming three straight years of financial losses. The move could force the latter to close. The P-I's parent, Hearst Corp., had tried to preempt the Times Monday via a lawsuit. Preliminary arguments in the case are scheduled for Tuesday.

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