Business & Finance

After a bitter six-month battle, Hewlett-Packard's shareholders are to vote tomorrow at their annual meeting on the proposed $21 billion merger with Compaq Computer Corp. Carly Fiorina, chief executive officer for Palo Alto, Calif.-based Hewlett-Packard, said the deal would create a company to challenge No. 1 computermaker IBM. But Walter Hewlett, a board member and son of a cofounder, has maintained it could tip the company toward low-end technology. Both have campaigned strenuously to line up support for their respective positions in the final hours before the vote. (Story, page 2.)

The exodus of clients from Arthur Andersen LLP accelerated in the wake of the auditor's indictment late last week on obstruction of justice charges for shredding Enron documents. Four more Fortune 500 companies – Sara Lee Corp., Abbott Laboratories, Northeast Utilities, and Brunswick Corp. – dropped Andersen Friday. The government's General Accounting Office also suspended Andersen and Enron from receiving new federal contracts.

Kraft Foods Inc. announced it will cut 7,500 jobs in the process of absorbing the operations of Nabisco Holdings. The move also will involve closing or reconfiguring more than a dozen plants in the US, Canada, Uruguay, Ecuador, Chile, Panama, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Taiwan, and China. Kraft and Nabisco completed their merger in December 2000.

In a deal valued at $4.3 billion, the second-largest supplier of electricity to Britain, Innogy PLC will agree to be acquired by German utility conglomerate RWE, reports said. RWE already owns or has stakes in more than 500 companies involved in electricity generation, gas, water, oil, mining, construction, and engineering.

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