Business & Finance
Boeing Co. won a contract valued at $3.1 billion to build at least 10 passenger jets for the no-frills airline Virgin Blue, with options for 40 more. The carrier, Australia's second-largest behind Qantas, until now has leased all 29 of its planes. Delivery of the new jets is expected by August 2004 to help Virgin Blue expand its reach to 18 cities in the growing Asia-Pacific market. Industry analysts said the deal represents a needed boost for Boeing, which has been hit far harder than its top rival, Europe's Airbus Industrie, by the slump in air travel brought on by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the US.
Twice-rebuffed Simon Property Group, the largest shopping mall owner in the US, made a third unsolicited offer - $1.74 billion, plus assumption of $2.4 billion in debt - for rival Taubman Centers Inc. and set a Feb. 14 deadline for the latter's shareholders to accept it. The Taubman family, which controls a 30 percent voting stake in the company, opposes the takeover. Simon Property operates 249 malls, among them one of the world's largest, Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn. Taubman has 30 shopping centers in 13 states.
Nestlé and Cadbury Schweppes, two of the world's leading makers of chocolate products, were claiming victory after a ruling by the European Union's Court of Justice that prevents member governments from banning imports made with vegetable fat rather than cocoa butter. The decision is aimed at achieving what a Nestlé official called a "unified" market for chocolate across the Continent. It specifically affects Italy and Spain, both of which had insisted that imported products be labeled "chocolate substitute" under their national trade rules.