Business & Finance

Media giant Vivendi Universal rejected a $15 billion bid for its entertainment assets in the US from a consortium led by oil tycoon Marvin Davis. The company's board, meeting in Paris, also decided to take off the auction block its Universal Music division, leaving a package that includes cable TV networks, theme parks, and Universal Studios. In a statement, the board said, "In-depth negotiations will now be pursued with selected bidders."

American Airlines won the OK from a federal court Tuesday to follow through on its plan to lay off 3,100 flight attendants, most of whom joined the carrier when it acquired bankrupt TWA two years ago. The layoffs were announced in May. American also notified the management of Dallas-Fort Worth Airport that the airline is preparing to announce systemwide cutbacks, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported. Those are projected to include additional layoffs, plus such measures as the closure of one or more maintenance facilities and reservations centers and reductions in the number of destinations it serves.

In other layoff news:

• Another 1,000 jobs will be cut by AT&T Wireless, the nation's third-largest cellphone service provider, The Wall Street Journal said it learned. The company laid off about 2,000 workers last year.

• Schneider Electric, a world leader in building control systems for industry, utilities, and transportation facilities, said it will lay off 1,000 workers, all of them in France. Schneider is based in Rueil-Malmaison, near Paris.

The Carlyle Group, a private equity partnership specializing in buyouts of aerospace and defense contractors, leads a consortium that will pay $1.7 billion for Fiat Avio, reports said. The latter, a division of Fiat SpA, Italy's largest company, manufactures parts for airplane engines and rocket propulsion systems. Carlyle is based in Washington.

Federal courts in New York threw out lawsuits against Merrill Lynch and three other major Wall Street brokerages, setting a precedent that could affect similar suits over allegedly biased stock research. US District Judge Milton Pollack ruled that Merrill Lynch was not to blame for heavy losses by investors who, he wrote, engaged in "rash speculation" in volatile tech stocks. The other ruling rejected a case against Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse First Boston, and Morgan Stanley Dean Witter.

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