Business & Finance

A $22.54 billion loss for 2002, the largest in the history of French business, was posted by former communications monopoly France Telecom. The red ink was due largely to write-downs of $19.8 billion on such assets as troubled cellphone operator MobilCom and Equant, its Internet data services unit. In 2001, France Telecom lost $9.1 billion. The previous French record was $15.6 billion posted by multimedia giant Vivendi Universal two years ago.

Vivendi Universal is to hold one of the most crucial board meetings in its history today, to plan the course for the future of its entertainment business. But the directors will gather in Paris amid reports that investment tycoon Marvin Davis is ready to take his $20 billion bid for Vivendi's Universal Studios, its US theme parks, and its TV production company off the table unless the company negotiates only with him. The list of potential buyers for those assets reportedly also includes NBC, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., and especially, The Wall Street Journal said, Viacom Inc.

Federal regulators appeared ready to block the $2.8 billion takeover of Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream Inc. by Swiss food-marketing giant Nestlé. The Federal Trade Commission voted Tuesday to seek a preliminary injunction against the deal on grounds that it would eliminate competition in the superpremium ice cream business. Dreyer's of Ontario, Calif., markets the Godiva, Starbucks, and Dreamery brands. Nestlé's sells Häagen-Dazs. Together with the huge London food marketer Unilever, which owns the Ben & Jerry's brand, the rivals control 98 percent of the gourmet ice cream market.

Another 800 jobs will be cut by information technology service provider LogicaCMG, its chief executive announced. The layoffs bring to 2,200 the number of employees who have been let go since Logica and CMG merged late last year. The company is based in London.

Tobacco giant Philip Morris USA said it will relocate its headquarters to Richmond, Va., from New York by June 2004. But a spokesman denied suggestions that the decision was based on New York's stringent new antismoking rules., saying the move would save $60 million a year.

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