Business & Finance

United Airlines dodged the threat of a crippling strike during the peak travel season by securing two critical labor deals on Tuesday. The airline gained a contract agreement in principle with its machinists union just hours after its mechanics voted to ratify a separate pact. The wage and benefit concessions by the two employee groups should strongly boost United's quest to get out of bankruptcy, all but completing efforts to cut labor costs by a further $700 million annually. The developments also came just in time to avoid a potentially strike-triggering ruling by a bankruptcy judge, who was set to issue an order annulling existing contracts and imposing pay and benefit cuts unilaterally had there been no agreement.

Danish toy maker Lego said Wednesday it has entered talks with several partners to sell its four Legoland amusement parks and expects to reach a deal this summer. The company famed for its colored plastic building blocks operates parks in Billund, Denmark (where Lego has its headquarters); Carlsbad, Calif.; Gunzburg, Germany; and Windsor, England. The Wall Street Journal said the Blackstone Group, a private equity firm based in New York, is close to buying the parks for $468 million.

A judge on Tuesday approved procedures outlining a road map for the $1.5 billion merger of US Airways and America West through the bankruptcy process, limiting to 30 days any potential competing bids. US Airways Group Inc. sought the window to "shake the tree and see if there's any higher, better offer." At the same time, the airline said it wanted to receive any potential bids quickly so that it can emerge from bankruptcy as soon as possible. If no other suitors emerge, the two air carriers would exclusively negotiate to create the largest budget US airline.

Building on the success of "Desperate Housewives" and other recent programming, ABC sold out all its prime-time commercial slots for $2.1 billion for the coming season, which begins in September, The Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday. The network, the first to achieve a sell- out, expects a 30 percent jump in ad revenues.

Ethiopian Airlines said Tuesday it will buy 10 new Boeing 787 jets, doubling the number of firm orders the carrier announced earlier this year. Boeing said the deal was worth about $1.6 billion at list prices.

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