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Business & Finance

By Compiled from wire service reports by Robert Kilborn and Kristen Broman-Worthington / November 24, 2003



In a long-awaited earnings restatement, Freddie Mac, the nation's No. 2 home-mortgage portfolio buyer, acknowledged Friday that it had inflated 2001 earnings by almost $1 billion, while saying it understated net income by $5 billion for 2000-2002. The government-sponsored company has been embroiled in a scandal - for allegedly manipulating figures to smooth out profit volatility - that has led to the resignations of two chief executives and prompted civil and criminal investigations.

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Two pension funds sued supermarket giant Safeway Inc., accusing its management and board of conflicts of interest, mismanagement, and deceiving investors. The civil complaints were filed Thursday and Friday in San Mateo County, Calif., and come as Safeway and two other grocery chains in the state contend with a strike that began Oct. 11. Safeway said the lawsuits, along with another filed by three customers, are without merit and called them part of a smear campaign by union leaders. Safeway is based in Pleasanton, Calif.

Boeing sent layoff notices to 340 more employees Friday, most of them in Washington State, where the aerospace giant's commercial aircraft division is based. The latest cuts come on top of 40,000 job cuts planned by the end of the year amid an industrywide downturn. Boeing shifted its headquarters to Chicago last year.

With a Jan. 13 deadline looming, regulators were studying a new offer by Lagardère SCA of Paris to sell some key assets in exchange for approval of its $1.4 acquisition of rival Vivendi Universal's publishing business. The Financial Times reported Friday that Lagardère has told the European Union it would be willing to dispose of its Pocket Books division and other imprints and their distribution networks. EU antitrust regulators repeatedly have "stopped the clock" on their review of the proposed Lagardère-Vivendi deal, postponing a decision on approval first to Oct. 9, then to Dec. 3. The merger would combine France's two largest publishers.

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