Business & Finance

Sabre Holdings Corp., the world's No. 1 computerized travel reservation system and owner of the online travel group Travelocity, said Thursday it has agreed to purchase British rival lastminute.com in a deal that values the money-losing company at $1.1 billion. The deal is expected to support a global expansion of travel services by Sabre Holdings, said Sam Gilliland, chairman of the Southlake, Texas, company. Last-minute.com, one of the few British online companies to survive the burst of the dot-com bubble in 2000, sells flights and holidays over the Internet in 13 European countries.

UAL Corp., the parent company of United Airlines, reported a $1.1 billion first-quarter loss, its biggest in two years, a day after a federal bankruptcy judge approved United Airlines' plan to end four employee pension plans.

The first-quarter results were released shortly before the start of what is certain to be a contentious trial in federal bankruptcy court over United's proposal to unilaterally impose new lower-cost contracts on its mechanics' and machinists' unions. Negotiations have so far failed to produce agreements, and both unions' memberships have authorized strikes if the contracts are broken without their consent.

National Australia Bank, the country's largest lender, will shed 4,200 jobs during the next two years, the Malaysia Star reported Thursday. Besides 1,700 previously announced job cuts in Britain, the bank will eliminate 2,500 mostly back-office jobs in Australia and Asia. The downsizing, The New York Times said, is part of a three-year turnaround plan begun in the aftermath of a foreignexchange trading scandal.

Toyota has confirmed that its president, Fujio Cho, will meet with General Motors Chief Executive Rick Wagoner when Wagoner visits the 2005 World Expo in Aichi, where Toyota is based, this weekend. The Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Japan's biggest business daily, reported Thursday that Cho and Wagoner may be discussing a possible joint venture to produce nonpolluting fuel-cell vehicles in the US. Cho has played down any such speculation with the world's struggling top automaker, which has announced a $1.1 billion first-quarter loss. Toyota and GM already run an auto plant in California together and have exchanged research before.

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