Business & Finance

Federal regulators accused HealthSouth Corp. and its chairman of inflating profits by $1.4 billion between 1999 and 2002 to defraud investors. The Securities and Exchange Commission filed the civil suit in Birmingham, Ala., where HealthSouth is based, as the Justice Department announced that the company's ex-chief financial officer has pleaded guilty to securities fraud in a deal with prosecutors. HealthSouth is the nation's largest provider of outpatient surgery and rehabilitation services.

Entertainment mogul Barry Diller resigned as chief of Vivendi Universal Entertainment, citing investor confusion over his other job as head of USA Interactive. The e-commerce company owns the Home Shopping Network and Ticketmaster, among others. Analysts said Diller's departure could speed plans by Vivendi's deeply indebted French parent to sell off assets including Universal Studios and theme parks.

In a flurry of airline industry news:

• Due to rising fuel costs, the International Air Transport Association authorized a 3 percent fare increase, effective April 15, for carriers serving more than one country. The IATA represents 96 percent of the airlines flying international routes.

• Continental Airlines announced another 1,200 job cuts by year's end. The carrier has laid off about 4,300 workers since the September 2001 terrorist attacks.

• American Trans Air, the 10th-largest US carrier, announced a name change - to ATA Airlines Inc. The company said the switch was made to avoid further confusion with rival AirTran Airways.

Allianz, one of the world's largest insurance and financial- services companies, posted a $1.3 billion loss for 2002, its first since World War II. The company, based in Munich, Germany, cited heavy losses on world stock markets and ongoing problems with nonperforming loans at its Dresdner Bank subsidiary, whose chief executive quit earlier this week. Allianz said it will try to raise $5.3 billion in capital through the sale of new shares and bonds.

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