Business & Finance

Time Warner, the world's biggest media company, may be nearing a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission that could lead to penalties of $500 million, among the highest yet imposed, Bloomberg.com reported Wednesday. The deal, which is still under discussion, could settle charges that the company's America Online unit improperly inflated advertising revenue and engaged in other questionable accounting practices. In other settlement news:

• Viacom, which owns CBS and MTV, signed a consent decree with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to settle dozens of federal investigations into alleged indecency on television and radio. The deal calls for a record $3.5 million fine. Some of the broadcasts involved "shock" jock Howard Stern and the hosts of the Opie and Anthony show. The three on-air personalities since have switched to satellite radio, where FCC rules don't apply.

• DaimlerChrysler denounced the $105 million penalty awarded by a jury in Tennessee to a Nashville couple for the death of their infant son. The automaker said it will appeal. The child was killed three years ago in a collision involving his family's 1998 Dodge Caravan minivan, whose rear passenger seat collapsed. Prosecutors claimed DaimlerChrysler has ignored pleas from consumer advocates to improve the seats.

In a deal valued at $1 billion, the operator of Luton Airport outside London agreed to be acquired by Abertis Infraestructuras SA. The sale by TBI PLC gives Abertis control of a facility that experienced a 9 percent jump in passenger traffic in the first half of 2004. It is the base of fast-growing discount carrier EasyJet. Abertis also operates toll roads, has holdings in broadcasting and telecommunications, and offers logistics support services. Its headquarters are in Barcelona, Spain.

In a new wave of layoff announcements:

• Cingular Wireless confirmed reports that it will eliminate 7,000 jobs as it integrates its workforce with that of recently acquired AT&T Wireless. The layoffs will begin in January and will affect mostly administrative personnel.

• Chemical industry giant BASF will cut 3,600 jobs at its plant in Ludwigshafen, Germany, over the next three years, a spokesman said. The plant is the world's largest chemical manufacturing facility.

• Electrolux, a leading maker of vacuum cleaners and appliances, said it will close its assembly plant in Reims, France, early next year. The move will idle 240 employees.

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