Business & Finance

Southwest Airlines called for a federal mediator to join stalled negotiations with the union representing its 7,200 flight attendants, who have been without a contract since June 2002. The low-fare carrier is the only large US airline that has remained profitable since the recession and Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Flight attendants want substantial raises and an end to the requirements that they clean planes between flights.

Widening its probe of HealthSouth Corp., a House panel subpoenaed three former executives of the nation's largest rehabilitation hospital chain, two other companies, and the Washington law firm Fulbright & Jaworski. The Energy and Commerce Committee is looking into an alleged $2.5 billion accounting fraud at HealthSouth and has turned attention to an internal review for which the latter hired Fulbright & Jaworski. The review found no wrongdoing in ex-chief executive Richard Scrushy's sale of $25 million in company stock shortly before an announcement that sent share prices plummeting. A committee spokesman said there are concerns the report "may have been rushed, biased, and not as independent as some people were led to believe."

The $7.3 billion offer to buy full control of Orange S.A., a leading European cellphone service provider, will remain open until Oct. 7, France Telecom said. The latter already owns all but 14 percent of Orange, and acquiring the rest would reverse the spinoff of February 2001, when private investors were offered shares at about $10.70 each. Today, a share in Orange is worth $10.74. France Telecom is state-owned and is seeking to put back together much of its former empire, which was dissipated under previous management.

Harrah's Entertainment Inc., the gambling industry's third-largest company, will acquire regional casino operator Horseshoe Gaming Holding Co. for $1.45 billion in cash and assumed debt, The Wall Street Journal reported. Harrah's is based in Las Vegas. Horseshoe's casinos are in Hammond, Ind.; Tunica, Miss.; and Bossier City, La. The company is based in Tinley Park, Ill.

Struggling jeansmaker Levi Strauss & Co. said it plans to cut 650 more jobs, or 5 percent of its remaining workforce. The company, mired in a six-year sales slump, laid off 3,600 workers last year. The latest cuts involve 350 US employees, mainly in San Francisco, where Levi's is based, and another 300 in Europe.

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