Business & Finance

The $1.1 billion sale of Conseco Finance Corp., the largest US mobile-home lender, to CFN Investment Holdings LLC and GE Consumer Finance was approved by a bankruptcy court in Chicago Friday. The buyers agreed to sweeten a previous bid of $1.01 billion for the troubled firm after more than 50 creditors and certificate holders raised objections. The sale will help parent Conseco Inc., whose Chapter 11 filing last December was the third-largest in American history, to emerge from bankruptcy this summer. Conseco is based in Carmel, Ind.

Citigroup Inc., the world's largest financial-services company, was not commenting on a published report that - by year's end - it will close up to 500 branch offices in Japan, costing 2,000 employees their jobs. The Tokyo business journal Nihon Keizai based its report on an internal document addressed to senior Citigroup officers and said the steps would be taken in the company's consumer-finance business. Citigroup's operations in Japan date back 100 years.

Rising prices for gasoline are fueling so much demand for hybrid cars across the US that automakers apparently will be unable to meet it, the financial news service reported. Sales of the gas-electric Toyota Prius and Honda's Insight and Civic Hybrid models are up 50 percent this year, their makers report. But production limits by Honda and a late model change for the Prius will hold sales to no more than 55,000 vehicles, said, citing an industry analyst. Last year, US consumers bought 36,000 hybrids.

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