Business & Finance

Without a public announcement, IBM is laying the groundwork for a transfer of thousands of high-paying software programming jobs to India, China, and perhaps other foreign countries, The Wall Street Journal reported. Citing documents its reporters have viewed, the Journal said IBM managers have been told that up to 4,730 jobs would be affected at such facilities as Southbury, Conn.; Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; Raleigh, N.C.; Boulder, Colo.; and Dallas. It said some of the affected employees will be expected to train their own replacements.

In a deal valued at $5.24 billion, the Safeway supermarket chain, Britain's fourth-largest, agreed to be acquired by rival William Morrison PLC. The cash-and-stock transaction ends Morrison's year-long pursuit of Safeway, which was complicated at times by competing bids or expressions of interest by six other companies. The merger is expected to result in the loss of 1,200 jobs, the Financial Times reported.

Detergent and soapmaker Dial Corp. was sold for $2.9 billion to consumer-products conglomerate Henkel KGaA, the parties announced Sunday. Analysts said the all-cash deal should strengthen Henkel, whose largest market until now has been recession-nagged Germany, where rivals in the personal-care business - especially the makers of Wella hair products and Nivea skin cream - recently have found foreign partners. But the merger still leaves Henkel/Dial far behind the industry's giants, Procter & Gamble and Unilever PLC, the analysts said. Dial's headquarters will remain in Scottsdale, Ariz.

El Paso Corp., the nation's largest operator of pipelines, will sell its controlling interest in GulfTerra Energy Partners to Enterprise Products Partners LP for $4.9 billion in cash and assumption of debt, reports said. Enterprise also will buy nine natural gas processing plants from El Paso for $150 million, CBS MarketWatch reported. El Paso, GulfTerra, and Enterprise all are based in Houston.

Bank of China announced it will sell $1.89 billion worth of stock in its Hong Kong unit, with the aim of using the proceeds to write off nonperforming loans. The sale is understood to be necessary because BOC, the nation's second-largest lender, needs to reduce its bad-debt ratio to win approval for its own initial public offering in 2005.

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