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Northwest Airlines won federal approval to contribute nontraded stock in its Pinnacle subsidiary - rather than cash - to three pension plans. Such exemptions are rare, although struggling Pan Am and General Motors received them in 1989 and 1994, respectively. The Wall Street Journal reported they could become more common as airlines and other companies look for ways to shore up underfunded pension plans.

A court in Tennessee froze Berkshire Hathaway's $1.7 billion takeover of Clayton Homes, saying the nearly completed deal may not be finalized until a legal challenge is resolved. A suit filed by the Denver Area Meat Cutters and Employers Pension Plan, a major shareholder, accuses the mobile-home builder's management of fraud in pursuing the buyout. Clayton's chief executive denies the claim.

The struggling carrier that replaced Swissair said the austerity measures it has been implementing since last November "are now beginning to bite" and helped to trim its second quarter loss to $98.6 million - down from $155 million for the first three months of its fiscal year. Swiss also said its combined first-half loss was lower than for the same period last year. But a spokesman refused to comment on continuing speculation that Swiss will merge with Germany's Lufthansa or will join an industry alliance led by British Airways and American Airlines.

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Sonoco Products Co., a world leader in plastic grocery bags and other types of commercial and industrial packaging, said it will cut 340 jobs and close 20 plants over the next 18 months. The company is based in Hartsville, S.C.

In a new blow to its prestige, deeply troubled supermarket operator Royal Ahold NV announced the layoffs of 200 workers at its Dutch and Belgian foodservice subsidiary, DeliXL. Earlier this month, Ahold again postponed its earnings report, which hasn't been published since a series of admissions beginning Feb. 24 that revenues for 2001-2002 were overstated by more than $850 million. That has led to a wave of investigations, high-level resignations, and efforts to sell or consolidate operations in Latin America and the Scandinavian countries.

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