Business & Finance

Kaiser Aluminum became the latest of a growing number of major US companies to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Kaiser had until Friday to meet a $174 million payment to bondholders, but analysts said it was unlikely that the company, North America's third-largest aluminum producer, could win new loans or that bondholders would reschedule the payments in time. Houston-based Kaiser already is working with a major investment bank on a restructuring plan, reports said.

A stern formal reprimand was narrowly avoided by the government of Germany for its spiraling budget deficit, which threatens to put it in violation of European Union rules. The issue is especially sensitive since Germany is Europe's largest economy and, under Chancellor Helmut Kohl, was the principal author of the EU rule. Kohl's successor, Gerhard Schröder, had said a reprimand would be unacceptable. The rule, which has yet to be enforced, is supposed to put member states on notice when their budgets reach 3 percent of gross domestic product. Germany's is projected to test that limit this year, largely due to the global economic slowdown. But in compromise wording negotiated among EU finance ministers late Monday, Germany's budget will be cited only as a cause of concern. Portugal escaped with the same designation.

Willamette Industries shareholders OK'd the $6.2 billion acquisition of the company by rival forest products giant Weyerhaeuser. Executives of Portland, Ore.-based Willamette, including the grandson of the company's cofounder, had fought the hostile takeover for more than a year before capitulating Jan. 22. The deal also requires Federal Way, Wash.-based Weyerhaeuser to assume about $1.7 billion in Willamette debt.

Reuters Group announced plans to cut another 200 jobs due to declining profits partly as a result of the Sept. 11 attacks. The British-owned news service laid off 1,600 workers last year.

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