Business & Finance

The trust that controls Hershey Foods Corp. dropped plans to sell its stake in the US's largest candymaker, saying its board "rejected all bids." The company had been poised to accept a $12.5 billion offer from chewing-gum maker Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co., The Wall Street Journal reported. Early this month, the state attorney general in Pennsylvania, where the 108-year-old company is based, won a court order blocking any sale amid a local public outcry and worry that a transfer of ownership could result in layoffs.

In a move described as "shocking" and "a moral hazard" by critics, Japan's central bank announced it will intervene to influence economic stability by buying some of the stock portfolios held by commercial banks and keeping them for up to 10 years. All purchases are to be made at market prices. No ceiling for the buys was announced; major Japanese banks held $200 billion worth of shares as of April 1. Last January, a share-buying agency was set up by the government for the same purpose, but it has proved complicated and unpopular. Japanese companies are due to report their six-month earnings Sept. 30; meanwhile, the Tokyo Stock Exchange's highly influential Nikkei index has sunk to 19-year lows twice this month.

Vivendi Universal said it has secured a new loan to provide more breathing space while it plans how to streamline operations and reduce its $20 billion debt. The Paris-based multimedia giant said 11 banks had agreed to provide $2.92 billion in medium-term credit. The deal replaces one announced July 8 for $989 million in emergency short-term credit. Vivendi also won $1.97 billion in loans on Aug. 18.

Struggling Swiss Life, one of Europe's largest underwriters, said it will cut 700 jobs and put its asset-management and private banking divisions up for sale, along with its operations in Britain, Italy, and Spain. The carrier intends to return to its core life-policy business. It posted a $256 million loss for the first half of the year and the value of its shares has plunged by 75 percent.

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