Business & Finance

Formal announcement of a merger between UFJ Holdings Inc. and Mitsubishi Tokyo Holdings Inc., which would result in the world's largest bank, was expected as the Monitor went to press. Few details were being reported, but Mitsubishi Tokyo said it had agreed to provide up to $6.3 billion in emergency aid to its struggling prospective partner by Sept. 30 - almost double the latter's reported loss for fiscal 2003. Both companies are Japanese, and by joining forces they'd surpass Citigroup of the US, the current world leader, in terms of assets under management.

Toys may not be the stock in trade for Toys "R" Us much longer, as the company announced plans Wednesday to restructure and hinted it may sell the business outright. Toys "R" Us is the industry's No. 2 retailer in the US behind Wal-Mart Stores, but its sales have been inconsistent since the mid-1990s. Meanwhile, it said it will begin operating its fast-growing Babies "R" Us as a separate entity. Sales of traditional toys have fallen off as American children turn more to videogames, recorded music, and other diversions at ever-younger ages, an industry analyst said. F.A.O. Schwarz, another toy-retailing giant, filed for bankruptcy last year.

Six months of tumult in the mining industry appeared almost over as Gold Fields Ltd. and IAMGOLD Corp. announced they'll merge via a $2.1 billion stock-swap. Gold Fields is based in Johannesburg, South Africa, and IAMGOLD in Toronto, but the companies said they'd locate their combined headquarters in Denver. Following the announcement, rival Golden Star Resources Ltd. of Littleton, Colo., indicated it would end its attempted hostile takeover of Gold Fields. The deal also appears to close the book on IAMGOLD's prospective merger with Wheaton River Minerals Ltd. of Vancouver, British Columbia.

The St. Paul Travelers Companies, the second-largest business insurer in the US, announced plans to cut about 3,000 jobs, starting next year. The move is part of a larger-than-expected cost-saving strategy adopted since the St. Paul Companies and Travelers Property Casualty Corp. merged in April. In other downsizing news:

• Citigroup will lay off 450 workers when it closes a customer service center in suburban Des Moines, Iowa, next year. The move is the latest effort to consolidate operations since last year's purchase of Sears, Roebuck's financial services.

• General Motors said it will eliminate up to 400 jobs at its Saturn assembly plant in Spring Hill, Tenn., beginning next month, because of slow sales of Ion compact cars.

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