Business & Finance

Staggering losses were reported for 2002 by two of Europe's largest companies, Telefónica SA and Zurich Financial Services (ZFS). The former Spanish telephone monopoly said its net deficit last year was $6.01 billion, largely due to writing off failed investments in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Italy. On Wednesday, its Terra Lycos Internet portal wrote down $1.5 billion worth of assets. Meanwhile, ZFS, one of the world's leading insurance underwriters, announced a $3.4 billion loss, following $387 million in red ink for 2001. But it said it expects to return to profitability this year because of an aggressive cost-cutting program.

United Airlines flight attendants proposed $1 billion in wage cuts and other concessions over six years at talks with the bankrupt carrier Wednesday. That's about half the amount United is seeking for reorganization. The union also reaffirmed strong opposition to a planned low-fare service. United's parent, UAL Corp., has said it will ask a bankruptcy court to impose revised contracts if it can't reach agreements with unions by March 17.

Midwest Express Airlines said it will lay off 430 employees, impose a top-to-bottom pay cut, suspend some of its services, and close a Kansas City, Mo., call center. But it also will launch a new low-fare subsidiary in late summer to serve leisure destinations such as coastal resorts in Mexico. The upscale carrier is based in Milwaukee.

Furious employee unions were considering whether to sue Irish budget carrier Ryanair after it announced details of a restructuring plan for Buzz, the money-losing rival it will take over April 1. Ryanair, which is nonunion, said it plans to keep only 200 of Buzz's 600 employees and to end service on all but nine of its 24 routes. Ryanair acquired Buzz last month from KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.

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