Business & Finance

General Motors has begun fleshing out its announced plan to return to profitability in Europe, sources who speak for its workforce in Germany said. They told the Agence France-Presse news agency that the automaker has targeted its Opel subsidiary for up to 10,000 job cuts, although it has pledged not to close assembly plants and to avoid layoffs wherever possible. The reductions will be accomplished by transferring workers to a special Federal Labor Agency-funded employment system and by offering an early retirement option, the sources said. GM spokesmen were not immediately available to comment on the report. The company said in October it must cut 12,000 jobs over the next two years among its Opel, Vauxhall, and Saab operations to remain competitive in Europe.

Vivendi Universal said it will complete another phase of its radical restructuring plan by selling 15 percent of its water utility for $2 billion. The move will leave the media/ telecommunications giant with a 5 percent stake in Veolia Environnment SA, once its only business, and will bring to more than $21 billion the cash raised in two years from selling off assets to reduce its massive debt. As recently as July 2002, Vivendi owed creditors almost $40 billion.

CSX Corp., a leading shipper of freight by sea and rail, agreed to sell its overseas port operations for $1.15 billion in cash. The deal gives the buyer, Dubai Ports International, control of facilities in the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Germany, Australia, China, and the crown jewel, Hong Kong, the world's busiest container port. CSX is based in Jacksonville, Fla.

On the expectation of rising passenger traffic, investors enriched Air China to the tune of $1.08 billion in the carrier's initial public offering, reports said. The state-owned airline was the last - and largest - of China's major carriers to sell stock to the public.

Mitsubishi Motors Corp. called published reports "speculative" that suggested it needs at least $1 billion more to help rebuild its struggling operations. A spokesman said Mitsubishi will detail its plans to restructure the company by year's end. The report, which cited "bankers close to the matter," appeared earlier this week in Japan's Yomiuri newspaper and was picked up by the Financial Times.

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