Business & Finance

The board of directors of Toys R Us was scheduled to meet Wednesday to consider buyout offers of more than $5.5 billion each from Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Cerberus Capital Management. Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Wayne, N.J., retailer also has invited earlier bidders on only its toy business to sweeten those offers - which are in the vicinity of $3.5 billion - or to submit new offers for the entire company, including its lucrative Babies R Us stores.

Sears Roebuck refused to comment on a report that it is seeking a buyer for its Lands' End clothing division. The report appeared in the online edition of Women's Wear Daily. Sears bought Lands' End three years ago for $1.9 billion, but the latter's products have not revived its lackluster clothing sales. Sears is in the final stages of being acquired by Kmart, and some industry analysts have suggested that the Dodgeville, Wis., company, whose apparel carries comparatively high price tags, might not be a good fit for the combined retailers.

Bombardier Inc., the giant maker of rail systems and passenger planes, won the OK from its board for a new series of 110- to 130-seat jets and said it will ask governments in Canada and Britain to subsidize at least one-third of the $2.1 billion in development costs. Some of the components for the new planes are projected to be assembled in Northern Ireland. A senior excecutive said the market for aircraft of that size is projected to reach 5,800 units over the next 20 years, which would vault the Montreal company into spirited competition with the industry's leaders, Boeing and Airbus. Until now, Bombardier has vied primarily with Brazil's Embraer in building small jets for the corporate and regional airline markets.

HSBC Holdings, the world's second-largest banking company, said it expects to export many more clerical jobs to Asia over the next three years. Chief operating officer Alan Jebson told news outlets he "would be surprised" if HSBC had fewer than 15 call centers in Asia by 2008, with fewer than "25,000 people working in them." HSBC already has 10 such centers in India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, the Philippines, and China, having transferred 13,000 jobs to them from Britain at a saving of $19,270 each. Call centers provide clerical and telephone support services to customers, and Jebson said the company has yet to experience "a significant adverse reaction" from anyone except politicians and the news media. HSBC is based in London.

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