Business & Finance

The boards of Delta and Northwest Airlines were meeting Wednesday amid reports that both companies were finishing work on Chapter 11 bankruptcy filings that could be submitted within hours. The signs for Northwest were particularly telling after it informed the Securities and Exchange Commission that it would not make a $23 million payment on time that's owed to a regional affiliate, Mesaba Aviation Inc. It also confronts a deadline Thursday for a $65 million contribution to its employee pension program. But The Wall Street Journal said it had learned that Northwest might delay a filing to offer its unionized employees one last opening to make some financial concessions. In the same report, the Journal said Delta was sending teams of supervisors to explain to other employees around the US the implications of a bankruptcy filing on their pay, benefits, and pensions.

In other airline industry developments:

• The union representing 800 pilots and mechanics at bankrupt ATA voted to authorize a strike, although negotiations with the carrier have resumed. The Air Line Pilots Association said its members have given back $66 million worth of concessions over the past 15 months and ATA is proposing still more that would drop their earnings 40 percent below what's called for in its contract with the company.

• Olympic Airlines, the struggling national carrier of Greece, must repay $610 million in illegal subsidies received since 2002, European Union regulators ruled. Another $196 million in government subsidies before the company succeeded the deeply indebted Olympic Airways in 2003 also must be returned, they ruled. The Greek government protested that the decision will scare away potential investors but promised to safeguard the jobs of all 8,000 Olympic employees and keep the carrier flying.

Duke Energy Corp. will sell its generating plants in the Northeast and West and will take a $1.3 billion charge against third-quarter earnings, its chief executive said. The plants represent about 15 percent of Duke's generating capacity but will be offset, in part, by its $9 billion acquisition in May of rival Cinergy Corp. and its coal-fired power plants in the Midwest.

Lenox Inc., the maker and seller of fine china, will close its Pomona, N.J., manufacturing plant and 31 stores, resulting in 530 layoffs, reports said. Lenox is a subsidiary of the collectibles company Department 56 Inc.

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