Business & Finance

Unocal shareholders overwhelmingly OK'd the takeover of the company by rival Chevron for $18 billion. Unocal has been in the headlines for weeks as China's CNOOC Ltd. tried to top Chevron in a bidding war that sparked an international political uproar. CNOOC ultimately bowed out. Almost 80 percent of Unocal's shareholders voted Wednesday, and of those, 96.6 percent said "yes" to the merger.

A response could come as soon as Friday from Maytag Corp. to a third, and presumably final, takeover bid from Whirlpool, The Wall Street Journal reported. Whirlpool hiked its bid Wednesday to $1.7 billion - or $21 per share - $100 million higher than the offer reported just two days before. Rival bidder Ripplewood Holdings has offered $15.50 per share. Maytag's board must decide two questions: whether Whirlpool's bid merits confronting possible antitrust challenges from regulators and whether to break a contractual sales agreement with Ripplewood.

Yahoo! Inc. said it will pay $1 billion for a 40 percent stake in Alibaba.com, China's largest online auction site. Analysts said the deal will challenge eBay for dominance in the fast-growing Chinese e-commerce market. Two years ago, about the time Alibaba was being established, eBay bought rival Eachnet.com for $180 million.

Besieged by an ongoing strike, liability to asbestos-related claims, and environmental cleanup costs, copper miner Asarco Inc. filed for bankruptcy, The Wall Street Journal reported. The move came despite rising prices for copper that competitors are enjoying. Asarco, based in Phoenix, is a subsidiary of diversified metals giant Grupo Mexico.

Another foreign oil company was slapped with a huge bill for unpaid taxes by Venezuelan authorities, MarketWatch reported. It said Italy's ENI was given 15 days to pay $24 million, plus a 10 percent fine, or face another penalty of as much as 250 percent. Royal Dutch/Shell and Harvest Natural Resources of Houston previously were hit with demands for payment by Seniat, Venezuela's revenue service, which insists they'll lose if they appeal through the courts. Nineteen other foreign oil companies also are being audited under deals they reached with the government before President Hugo Chávez's rise to power in 1999.

Thai Airways International suspended its president and finance chief for failing to cut expenses. The Bangkok Post reported that the carrier's third-quarter results, due to be posted Monday, will show "a serious operational loss" due to soaring fuel costs and a "plunging" passenger load.

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