Business & Finance

General Electric and its labor unions were trying to bridge significant differences in intense negotiations over the weekend before the Sunday midnight expiration of their three-year contract. While both parties said they were confident an agreement would be reached, neither would discuss the specific issues - healthcare costs, wages, job security, and pensions - that separated them. The agreement covers about 24,400 employees who work at plants that make aircraft engines, appliances, locomotives, medical equipment, power turbines, and other products.

Seeking to block a takeover bid by software giant Oracle, PeopleSoft Inc. filed suit in California Superior Court Friday, alleging the former engaged in unfair trade practices, unlawfully interfered with its rival's clients and prospective customers, and disparaged its products. The litigation came a day after PeopleSoft's board rejected Oracle's $5.1 billion offer, saying it was too low and raised antitrust issues. PeopleSoft said it intended to pursue a takeover of J.D. Edwards & Co., which was announced four days before Oracle's unsolicited bid.

Chevron/Texaco was identified as the only US customer involved in the first major sale of Iraqi crude since the war against Saddam Hussein's regime began March 19. It was joined by Italy's ENI, by Spain's Repsol and Cepsa, by TotalFina Elf of France, and by Tupras of Turkey. The 10 million-barrel sale will help clear space in storage tanks for additional production. Proceeds will go to a US-controlled fund for helping to rebuild Iraq's economy.

In another heavy blow to the financial system of the Dominican Republic, its third-largest bank collapsed and was sold to avoid bankruptcy after a run on deposits by worried customers. Terms of the deal Friday for Banco Nacional de Credito SA by a private equity group were not disclosed. The announcement came one month after the Dominican's No. 2 bank, Banco Intercontinental SA, collapsed due to the loss of $2.2 billion through embezzlement, fraud, and other causes - an amount equivalent to 15 percent of gross domestic product.

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