Business & Finance

Its profits growing, financial services giant Credit Suisse said it plans to ask stockholders to OK buying back $5 billion worth of shares over the next two years. Chief executive officer Oswald Grübel said the company's $4.7 billion profit for fiscal 2004 was sufficient to "fund our growth strategy" as well as to return cash to stockholders. Only an unforeseen opportunity to acquire "anything coming up in the market that we think we have to buy" would prevent the return to shareholders, Grübel said.

Electronics retailer Circuit City Stores Inc. said Wednesday it will close 19 underperforming outlets, five regional offices, and a distribution center by the end of the month. The downsizing, which also involves selling a building at its headquarters in Richmond, Va., follows a similar round of store closings a year ago. A spokesman said the new moves are not related to news earlier this week that Highfields Capital Management had submitted an unsolicited $3.25 billion takeover offer to buy the company.

Ex-employees of Oneida Ltd., once the world's largest maker of stainless steel flatware, have agreed to buy the company's plant in Sherrill, N.Y., Gov. George Pataki (R) announced. The owners of the new company, to be called Sherrill Manufacturing Inc., said they plan to invest $1.9 million in it and will create 100 jobs - most of them to be filled from the pool of 500 employees who were let go last September. Oneida, which now licenses imported flatware under its own name, will buy $8 million worth of products a year from Sherrill while the latter seeks other customers.

The curtain appeared to drop, finally, on the long-running dispute between plaintiffs in California and the French government over the defunct insurance company Executive Life. The agency handling the matter confirmed that it will pay $600 million to settle a civil suit filed by California's insurance commissioner and policyholders of the failed carrier. The suit contended that the assets of Executive Life were acquired through fraud in the early 1990s by banking giant Crédit Lyonnais, which at the time was owned by the Paris government. The government backed out of a $575 million settlement in October 2003. But two months later, senior Crédit Lyonnais officials confessed in a criminal case to lying about the circumstances under which the bank had bought Executive Life's assets. Another suit seeking $1 billion from a French holding company that later bought some of those assets from Crédit Lyonnais is still pending, The Los Angeles Times reported.

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