Business & Finance

A new proposal by beleaguered oil industry giant Yukos to settle its back-taxes problems with the Russian government met with an unenthusiastic response late Sunday. The company offered voluntarily to pay up to $8 billion in three $2.5 billion installments plus its 35 percent stake in Russia's other oil giant, Sibneft. The payments would be made annually between now and 2007 to cover all possible obligations through last year. But The Wall Street Journal, quoting the Finance and Justice ministries, said in Monday's editions that no grounds existed for granting Yukos extra time to resolve its debt problems and that court orders freezing the company's bank accounts and assets would be "executed ... as fast as possible."

Firing back at the tycoon who wants to take over his company, Marks & Spencer chief executive Stuart Rose announced measures Monday to produce value in excess of the buyout offer. He said Britain's largest clothing and food retailer would sell its credit-card unit for $1.4 billion, cut 650 jobs, close stores that contribute least to its bottom line, and end an experiment with stand-alone furniture outlets. On the other hand, Rose said the company would return $4.25 billion to its shareholders, acquire a women's fashion label that has been a top seller, and simplify choices for shoppers by eliminating duplicate products and services. Monaco entrepreneur Philip Green has offered $16.8 billion for M&S.

InterContinental Hotel Group confirmed plans to sell 20 of its properties - mostly in North America and valued at about $1 billion. The world's largest lodging company already has sold 28 of its 3,500 hotels as it attempts to cut costs by managing instead of owning properties. Hotels in Chicago and Miami under the InterContinental brand are among those targeted. Others under the Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza brands are "earmarked for disposal" but will not be sold unless satisfactory bids are offered, the Financial Times reported. InterContinental is based in Windsor, England.

Bayer AG will lay off 1,000 fewer employees than anticipated this year and next, a spokesman for the German pharmaceutical/chemical giant said. The company originally announced it would shrink its workforce by 4,000 jobs but revised the number to 3,000 as part of an agreement with employee representatives.

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