Business & Finance

WorldCom reached a partial settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission covering its stated $9 billion in inflated profits, and a federal bankruptcy court New York OK'd the deal late Tuesday. It includes an as-yet unspecified fine and a permanent injunction barring further violations of securities laws, reports said. Among its other provisions: oversight by a court-appointed monitor and outside auditor, and mandatory accounting and ethics training for employees to help ensure compliance.

Four major oil companies signed a memorandum of understanding Wednesday to build a $4.5 billion pipeline that will increase supplies of crude to Western Europe and, ultimately, the US. The partners, all Russian, said the project should be completed by 2007. It will be the shortest link between oilfields in Siberia and the only seaport in northern Russia (Murmansk) that's ice-free in winter and large enough to accommodate supertankers. The project eventually could supply 10 percent of US crude imports, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The final phase in privatizing Telstra Corp., the No. 1 provider of phone service in Australia, was postponed until 2004. Shares in the company, which has 12 million customers, are trading at a five-year low, and political opposition to the divestment has been strong. The Canberra government, which sold a minority stake in the company in 1999, had hoped to realize $16.8 billion from offering its remaining shares to the public next year.

In new layoff announcements:

• Another 2,500 workers will be furloughed by US Airways, a company spokesman said late Tuesday. The cuts come on top of 2,500 announced when the US's seventh-largest carrier filed for bankruptcy in August and bring to almost 15,000 the number of employees furloughed since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

• The Saab division of General Motors said it will cut 1,300 jobs as the unit struggles to compete for buyers with German rivals DaimlerChrysler and BMW. Saab, based in Trollhaetten, Sweden, projects about 15,000 fewer sales this year than it had set as its target. It lost $119 million in the first half of the year.

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