Business & Finance

Troubled Royal Dutch/Shell will offer to do away with a controversial form of stock ownership that has contributed to investor unhappiness, the Financial Times reported. The Times said the company's Dutch board - which is stronger than its British counterpart - has developed a strategy to put before next year's annual meeting that, among other features, would scrap priority shares. Those have drawn heated criticism because they carry extra voting rights. Much of the unhappiness has stemmed from the lowering four times this year of the company's estimated oil and natural gas reserves - a matter that some investors have blamed on confusion caused by the twin boards. An internal review into corporate governance has been under way since March, and a statement said "forms of a united board to which a CEO would report" also were among the changes under consideration.

By unanimous vote, the board of Marks & Spencer, the largest clothing retailer in Britain, rejected another take-over offer from developer Philip Green - this time for $15.2 billion. But analysts told The Times (London) they expect Green to raise the stakes again and predicted that the department store chain would find it difficult to say "no" a third time. The tycoon's first bid reportedly was $12.5 billion.

In a deal valued at $1.93 billion, the gas distribution unit of energy giant TXU Corp. agreed to be acquired by Dallas neighbor Atmos Energy Corp., the companies announced.

Sprint Corp. said it will cut 1,100 jobs, about half of them in the Kansas City area, as it responds to intense competition in the long-distance telecommunications market. The company, which provides fixed-line service and a digital wireless network, has eliminated more than 22,000 jobs in the last two years. Those affected by the latest cuts will be notified by mid-July.

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