Business & Finance

The board of General Motors is to meet Monday under pressure to consider restructuring its North American operations after one of its most eventful weeks in recent history. Last Wednesday, billionaire Kirk Kerkorian, who is known for investing in undervalued businesses, said he wants to raise his stake in the struggling automaker to 9 percent. That news sent GM's stock to its largest one-day percentage gain in more than 40 years. But a day later the same stock fell 5.9 percent as Standard & Poor's, one of the three leading credit-rating agencies, declared billions of dollars of debt owed by GM and Ford to be "junk" - or below investment-grade. GM shares lost another 10 cents in Friday's trading. At the same time, GM is being whipsawed by billions of dollars in healthcare and pension liabilities, a $1.1 billion operating loss in the first quarter, an almost 5 percent drop in sales so far this year, and a contract with the United Auto Workers Union that does not expire until September 2007.

Royal Dutch/Shell and chemical industry giant BASF said they will sell their joint venture in plastics to a pair of investment companies. Access Industries and the Chatterjee Group, both of New York, will pay $5.7 for the venture, Basell NV. Basell, based in the Dutch city of Hoofdorpp, is the world's No. 1 producer of polypropylene, which is used in such applications as bottle caps, supermarket bags, automobile dashboards, and medical equipment.

Boeing raked in another order for its new 787 Dreamliner jet, this time from Northwest Airlines. The carrier said Friday it will buy 18 of the planes at a list price of $2.16 billion, with an option for 50 more. The deal calls for the first of the planes to be delivered in 2008. The order brings to $15.2 billion the value of 787s Boeing has contracted to build in the past two weeks. The latest is especially significant because the largest percentage of jets already in Northwest's fleet were built by rival Airbus.

Sun Microsystems announced plans to increase hiring in its overseas operations. According to MarketWatch, the Santa Clara, Calif., hardware and software maker will double the number of engineers it employs in Bangalore, India, over the next two years - to 2,000 - as it expands research and development centers there as well as in Beijing, Prague, and St. Petersburg, Russia.

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