Business & Finance

A key court ruling cleared the way for UFJ Holdings Inc. of Japan to include its troubled trust division in a prospective merger that would result in the world's largest lending institution. The Tokyo High Court overturned a lower-court decision that UFJ's Trust Bank Ltd. must not be part of merger negotiations. The bank has reported $20 billion in losses over the past three years. The Osaka company wants to be acquired by Mitsubishi Tokyo Financial Group Inc., Japan's second-largest bank. But rival Sumi-tomo Mitsui Financial Group, which has been pursuing a hostile takeover of UFJ, said it would appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court. A linkup with either suitor would make the combined company larger than Citigroup of the US, the current leading lender, which has assets of $1.3 trillion.

In a deal valued at $7.3 billion, the largest distributor of natural gas in Britain agreed to buy a 15-year supply of liquefied product from Petronas, reported. The latter is the state-owned oil and gas company of Malaysia. Centrica PLC, the buyer, provides 63 percent of the gas consumed in Britain.

MeadWestvaco, a leading maker of paper products for schools and offices, said Tuesday it will cut 600 jobs and close plants in St. Joseph, Mo., and Garland, Texas, as it consolidates production and adjusts its "manufacturing footprints." The announcement was yet another blow for St. Joseph, a city of 74,000 residents, which already has lost 450 jobs this year as Stetson Hat Co., Friskies PetCare, and Aegis Communications each closed a plant there or left altogether.

Kmart Holding Corp. announced it will cut 200 jobs, or about 10 percent of its headquarters staff in Troy, Mich. The company also said Tuesday that five stores will be sold within the next several days but that it is revising the number it will sell to Home Depot Inc. Under the new agreement, Kmart will sell at least 13 stores for $173 million and perhaps as many as 19 for $288.5 million. The deal originally called for the transfer of 24 stores. Since emerging from bankruptcy a year ago, Kmart has struggled to stay competitive with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp.

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