Business & Finance

Cerberus Capital Management heads a group of investors that proposes to buy all of Toys R Us, including its baby-goods stores, for almost $5 billion, The Wall Street Journal reported. The retailer has been trying to auction off only its toy business, which has been hurt by competition from Wal-Mart. But sources close to the bidding told the Journal they see indications that it now may be considering selling its entire operation.

The first profit in four years was reported by Vivendi Universal. The French multimedia giant also committed itself to paying stockholders a dividend - a pledge that chief executive Jean-Rene Fourtou had made a year ago this month. Fourtou said Vivendi's fourth-quarter net was $2.48 billion, compared to an $857 million loss the year before. After pulling the company back from the brink of bankruptcy when he assumed the post 2-1/2 years ago, he is scheduled to hand it over to his deputy this spring,

The first step was taken by the No. 1 lending institution in China to prepare for what would be the largest initial public offering in the nation's history. Industrial & Commercial Bank of China announced the hiring of a financial adviser for the stock sale, which is expected to be in the range of $10 billion. That would almost double the $5.65 billion raised five years ago in an IPO by the telecommunications company China Unicorn Ltd.

The world's largest operator of hotels, InterContinental, said it will sell 73 properties in Britain to a consortium of investors for $1.9 billion. The buyer group is led by US securities giant Lehman Brothers. InterContinental, which is based in Windsor, England, and owns the Holiday Inn chain, said it plans to return $1 billion of the proceeds to shareholders.

Liberty Mutual, the international insurance company , announced plans to add 1,750 jobs by 2007 at its expanded corporate complex in Dover, N.H.

Four investment banks agreed to pay $428.4 million in the long-running class-action suit against World Com Inc., now known as MCI. The announcement brings the total paid to settle fraud charges brought by former shareholders to $3.56 billion - the largest recovery yet in a suit of its type. The latest banks to settle are ABN AMRO, Mitsubishi Securities International, BNP Paribas Securities, and Mizuho International.

Another 1,400 jobs must be cut as part of a plan to help reduce operating expenses, Japan Airlines announced. A wave of layoffs already under way is aimed at eliminating 4,500 jobs by the end of the 2006 business year.

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