Business & Finance

MCI Inc., the long-distance telephone giant, posted a $3.4 billion loss for the third quarter, largely because of the cost of writing down the value of its assets. The writedown was its second this year; in March the former WorldCom Inc. took a $59 billion charge in restating three years' worth of financial results. Such a strategy could help the company next year to record its first profit since emerging from bankruptcy, analysts said. MCI also is in the process of reducing its workforce by 16,000 employees.

Time Warner Inc. will set aside $500 million to cover possible legal penalties as regulators investigate its accounting practices, the company said Wednesday. Following discussions with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Time Warner also will restate its consolidated earnings in AOL Europe for 2000, 2001, and possibly 2002.

Constellation Brands Inc., the world's largest wine producer, acquired Robert Mondavi Corp., which is credited with putting that industry on the map in California, for $1.03 billion in an all-cash deal. Robert Mondavi, the winery's founder, will stay on as a "brand ambassador." Constellation is based in Fairport, N.Y.

Ameren Corp., a Midwestern utility holding company, will attempt to reduce its workforce by 950 unionized and management employees by the end of next year through a "voluntary separation" program, it announced Wednesday. Affected employees will have until Dec. 20 to decide whether to accept a package of financial incentives, among them up to 78 weeks of pay and an extension of early retirement eligibility. Ameren, based in St. Louis, distributes electricity and natural gas through several subsidiaries in Missouri and Illinois.

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