Business & Finance

Oil-industry giant Yukos warned of its own collapse by year's end after failing to meet a Wednesday deadline to pay $3.4 billion in back taxes to the Russian government. The two sides negotiated up to the deadline in search of a compromise, but the talks ended fruitlessly. Meanwhile, government marshals already had raided the company's Moscow headquarters in search of documents detailing assets that could be seized. That move appeared to amount to a rejection of principal shareholder Mikhail Khodorkovsky's proposal Wednesday to surrender all his Yukos stock to prevent the company from going bankrupt. Russian President Vladimir Putin pledged last month that the Kremlin would do all it could to prevent Yukos's collapse, but analysts noted that his words have not stopped the almost daily legal setbacks the company has been absorbing. Yukos employs 105,000 people.

For the third time, Marks & Spencer, the largest clothing and food retailer in Britain, rejected a buyout proposal by entrepreneur Philip Green, saying his $16.8 billion offer is still too low. The chain promised an announcement Monday of changes to its "operations and strategy" that will demonstrate why the latest bid by the Monaco billionaire - which he called "final, final, final" - continues "to undervalue the group and its prospects significantly." Green, who first offered $12.8 billion and later $14.9 billion, reportedly has said he isn't willing to turn his pursuit into a hostile takeover attempt.

Siemens AG, world's largest manufacturer outside the auto industry, said its chief executive will step down in January, to be succeeded by heir-apparent Klaus Kleinfeld. Heinrich von Pierer has led Siemens for 12 years, winning praise for making it more market-oriented, and had been expected to continue in the post until retirement in 2006, The Wall Street Journal reported. But he also has been criticized for not being aggressive enough in streamlining the company, whereas Kleinfeld is known as a cost-cutter, and analysts said his accession to the CEO post suggests he may merge or sell off some underperforming divisions.

A strike against Abitibi Consolidated Inc., the world's largest producer of newsprint, was averted Wednesday when it agreed with the Communications, Energy, and Paperworkers Union of Canada on a new five-year contract. Abitibi, based in Montreal, employs 4,500 people at 13 mills across eastern Canada.

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