Business & Finance

In a major shift of focus, photography giant Eastman Kodak announced it will develop digital products such as inkjet printers and no longer will invest heavily in its core film business. Film sales are mired in a three-year slump. Kodak, based in Rochester, N.Y., also cut its annual dividend for the first time, slashing the payout from $1.80 a share to 50 cents.

Contract electronics giant Flextronics International Ltd. vowed to challenge a $934 million award it was ordered to pay to a former customer in a contract dispute. The penalty was imposed by Orange County (Calif.) Superior Court for the company's actions after it canceled a five-year deal to make circuit boards for blood-analysis instruments marketed by Beckman Coulter Inc. of Fullerton, Calif. Beckman Coulter ultimately produced the circuit boards itself, reports said, but Flextronics refused to return vital parts to its customer unless the latter also bought certain unrelated products. Flextronics is a Singapore company but maintains a US headquarters in San Jose, Calif.

The US insurance arm of financial services giant Fortis will be offered for sale via an initial public offering that analysts estimated could fetch up to $4.8 billion, reports said. The company said it has renamed the insurance unit Assurant Inc. and will list it on the New York Stock Exchange next year. Fortis wants to refocus on its core businesses in the Netherlands and Belgium, a senior executive said. Fortis is based in Brussels.

The world leader in making denim fabric, Cone Mills Corp., filed for bankruptcy Wednesday, blaming unfair competition from Asian imports. The venerable supplier for Levi's jeans said it had agreed to sell its assets for $90 million to financier Wilbur Ross, who also is acquiring bankrupt fabricmaker Burlington Industries. Cone Mills is based in Greensboro, N.C., and employs 3,000 workers at five US factories and a joint venture in Mexico.

ArvinMeritor Inc. is laying off more than 850 workers and closing an exhaust-systems plant in Franklin, Ind., the auto parts manufacturer announced Wednesday, after warning earlier that it might do so because of excess production capacity. ArvinMeritor is based in Troy, Mich.

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