Business & Finance

Members of the United Auto Workers Union ratified their new four-year contract with DaimlerChrysler, although the deal allows the company to close or sell assembly plants that have not improved production or product quality. DaimlerChrysler has identified nine such plants. The contract covers almost 135,000 employees and retirees or their surviving spouses. New UAW contracts with General Motors and Ford also are expected to be ratified this week.

John Hancock Financial Services is in "advanced" negotiations on being acquired by Manulife Financial, a leading Canadian insurance company, The Boston Globe reported. Manulife has 13,300 employees and a market value of $14.5 billion, compared with John Hancock's 8,000 workers and $9.3 billion value. The latter is based in Boston. The T

In a deal valued at $1.1 billion, deeply indebted French engineering giant Alstom SA said it has sold its energy transmission and distribution business to Areva, France's state-owned nuclear power utility. The sale brought in less than Alstom had hoped for, given that the unit was its most profitable. Nevertheless, European Union regulators are expected to take a hard look at the terms, which Alstom's competitors claim constitute government aid in disguise. Last week, the EU approved a $3 billion bailout of Alstom that included some government assistance but represented a modification of a plan that originally called for far more such help.

Jeans icon Levi Strauss & Co. will close its last five plants in North America by April, the company said late last week. The factories employ 2,000 workers in San Antonio and the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Manitoba. The closures continue a shift in the apparel industry to cheaper contractors in Latin America and Asia. Levi Strauss, based in San Francisco, has experienced a sales slump from $7.1 billion in 1996 to $4.1 billion last year.

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