Business & Finance

ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch/Shell each sold their stakes in a vital new natural gas transmission system to their larger partner, the government of the Netherlands, for a combined $3.5 billion, The Times (London) reported. The pipeline, still under construction, is aimed at supplying Britain, where energy prices are soaring.

In a deal valued at $2.1 billion, independent oil and natural gas giant EnCana Corp. will sell its assets in the North Sea to rival Nexen Inc., The Wall Street Journal repported. Citing EnCana chief executive Gwyn Morgan, the Journal said the company also intends to put its holdings in the Gulf of Mexico and in Ecuador on the market next year. EnCana and Nexen both are based in Calgary, Alberta.

More than 12,000 unionized employees walked off the job at Volkswagen assembly plants across Germany Monday in what they said was a warning to the automaker, which is in tense negotiations over a new contract. A full-blown strike could follow, CNN reported. With sales and profits in a slump, the company is insisting on a need to freeze wages for two years as part of an overall goal of trimming labor costs by 30 percent. IG Metall, the union representing VW workers, has lowered its demand for annual pay raises from 4 percent to 2.2 percent in the first year of a new contract and 2.7 percent in the second year. But the union also wants assurances of job security for all 103,000 VW assembly-line workers, whereas the company has threatened to lop 30,000 jobs from the payroll and to shift some operations to plants outside Germany. CNN said.

Office Depot Inc. will cut 900 jobs as it consolidates its call-center operations and utilizes the services of third-party firms, the company said in a filing late last week with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The cutbacks are designed to save $15 million a year. Facilities in Boca Raton, Fla., and Norcross, Ga., will absorb some of the functions currently divided among a half-dozen other states. Office Depot is based in Delray Beach, Fla.

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