Business & Finance

Within minutes of settling a fee dispute with Viacom early Thursday, satellite TV operator EchoStar restored CBS programs, MTV, Nickelodeon, and other Viacom properties to millions of its DISH network subscribers. EchoStar pulled the plug on Viacom programming in major markets Tuesday when a court-ordered deadline for reaching a agreement passed. Terms of a new contract were not disclosed, but Viacom officials said EchoStar would charge six cents more per customer per month.

After emerging from the second-largest bankruptcy in US history, undersea cable operator Global Crossing reported a $24.8 billion profit for the fourth quarter - a record for a company whose stock is publicly traded. But analysts noted that none of the gain came from its operations, and the company's shares slid 30 percent in value on concern that it may not survive without a heavy infusion of new capital. The turnaround came via accounting maneuvers related to its reorganization. Global Crossing collapsed in January 2002 under a debt load of $12.4 billion.

Target Corp. is on the verge of selling one or both of its Mervyn's and Marshall Field's department store divisions, which lag behind the company's discount outlets, published reports said. Marshall Field's operates 62 stores in eight states. Mervyn's, a midpriced chain with 266 stores in 14 states, has struggled to compete against Kohl's and even Target's own stores.

Retail giant J.C. Penney is considering splitting its 2,700-store Eckerd pharmacy chain to sell in pieces, The Wall Street Journal reported. The prospective buyers were identified as CVS Corp., the largest US drugstore chain, and Montreal-based Jean Coutu Group, Canada's third-largest chain. The report said Eckerd's performance has disappointed J.C. Penney, which views dividing the unit as a means of extracting a better price than various bids of about $4 billion for selling it intact.

El Paso Corp. the largest US pipeline operator, said it would delay filing fourth-quarter earnings and its annual report with the Securities and Exchange Commission until an investigation into its steep reduction of estimated natural gas and oil reserves is completed. The Houston-based company reported last month that it was reducing the estimate by 41 percent. A spokesman declined to predict when the review will be completed.

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