Business & Finance

Hewlett-Packard Co. said it plans to add a net 500 jobs by year's end - shedding 3,500 positions in some departments while adding 4,000 in others. The announcement came as the computermaker in Palo Alto, Calif., posted better-than-anticipated earnings of $659 million for the second quarter. H-P has laid off 16,600 employees since last year's controversial merger with Compaq.

UAL Corp., the parent of United Airlines, is weighing emergence from bankruptcy late this year or early in 2004 - months ahead of its original June 2004 goal, The Wall Street Journal reported. Citing chief financial officer Jake Brace, the Journal said United is doing better than expected at cutting costs and meeting financial targets set by lenders. Brace told the newspaper that an early exit would boost confidence in the world's second-largest carrier.

Bidding reached $3.04 billion for Centerpulse AG, a leading medical products company, The Wall Street Journal reported. It said Zimmer Holdings Inc. of Warsaw, Ind., wants the Swiss maker of dental implants, artificial joints, and other devices to increase its own share of the European orthopedics market. The highest previous offer for Centerpulse was $2.5 billion by British rival Smith & Nephew PLC. Centerpulse, formerly known as Sulzer Medica, is based in Zurich.

Staples Inc. reported a 74 percent drop in profits for the first quarter - to $25 million - attributing it to a change in accounting rules for vendor rebates. The US's top office-supply chain, based in Framingham, Mass., also said it was among several in New England contacted by the Securities and Exchange Commission in an informal inquiry into vendor accounting practices.

ChevronTexaco Corp. will end its exclusive sponsorship of Metropolitan Opera broadcasts after next season, a senior executive announced. Their 63-year continuous relationship is the longest in the history of radio. The executive called the opera "a world-class cultural treasure" but said, "We believe it is important to focus more of our resources directly with the countries and markets where we do business," citing especially "pressing development needs." Met seasons typically run from December through April. The broadcasts are carried by 360 stations in the US but also reach 41 other countries.

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