Business & Finance

Taking part of its vast business interests public for the first time, Cargill Inc., the nation's largest private corporation, announced the merger of its fertilizer unit with IMC Global Inc. Based in Lake Forest, Ill., IMC Global is one of the world's top phosphate producers. Cargill, of Minne-tonka, Minn., trades in food, agricultural, and industrial products. If approved by shareholders and regulators, the deal will give the combined company assets of $5.4 billion. Having taken the step, the Minneapolis Star- Tribune quoted a Cargill executive as saying the company has no further interest in changing its business model.

Tenet Healthcare Corp., the national hospital chain, plans to sell more than a quarter of its facilities - 19 of them in California - The Wall Street Journal reported. The downsizing is prompted in part by costly earthquake-safety standards set to take effect in 2007 and will leave Tenet with 69 hospitals in 13 states. Tenet also is struggling to recover from allegations of questionable Medicare billing and other misconduct that led to a management shakeup and pricing changes.

Baxi Group, a leading maker of residential and commercial heating systems, was sold at auction to British buyout specialist BC Partners, the Financial Times reported. The deal was valued at $1.2 billion. Baxi, best known for its Ideal Standard brand, is based in Derby, England.

Confirming earlier reports, Kraft Foods cut 6,000 jobs Tuesday and said it will close 20 plants by 2007, while British Airways announced plans to trim its work force through early retirement, voluntary severance, and other means, according to the Financial Times. Kraft is the nation's largest maker of foods but experienced disappointing sales last year and already has warned that 2004's earnings will be lower than expected. The company markets such products as Oreo cookies, Post cereals, Velveeta cheese, and Oscar Mayer meats. British Airways did not specify the number of job cuts, but said it aims to reduce costs by $546 million a year.

Consumer electronics giant JVC said it will lay off 990 employees over the next four years and will close as many as five of its 28 assembly plants. JVC, also known as Victor Co. of Japan, makes high-definition TV sets, camcorders, DVD players, car stereos, and security systems.

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