US Airways and the union representing its reservations, ticketing and gate agents reached a tentative agreement for $11.2 million in annual labor savings over the next six years. The Communications Workers of America said it gained a seat on the airline's board of directors and jobs and job opportunities for its members at US Airways Express, a network of nine regional airlines affiliated with US Airways. The accord follows a $100 million agreement with the pilots union reached last week and brings the Arlington-based carrier a little closer to its goal of slashing $200 million a year in labor costs. The airline, which filed for bankruptcy protection in August, plans to submit its reorganization plan tomorrow.

Top European Firms Losing CEOs

The chief executives of two of Europe's biggest companies announced their resignations amid mounting losses and plunges in their companies' stock prices. Vodafone Group's Christopher Gent will leave in July while Allianz's Henning Schulte-Noelle will depart in April. Gent, 54, built Vodafone into the world's biggest mobile phone company with $300 billion of takeovers, but the company recorded the largest loss ever by a European company last year. Allianz has been battered by losses at Dresdner Bank, which Schulte-Noelle bought for $20 billion.


The U.S. trade deficit fell 5.5 percent in October, to $35.1 billion, its lowest level in seven months, although much of the gain was attributed to the West Coast dock workers dispute, which sharply reduced imports. Even with the improvement, though, the deficit for the entire year was running at a record annual rate of $420 billion.

Enron faces an expanded probe of its control over wind-power plants in California, after complaints that it charged excessive rates by hiding its ownership of the plants through secret partnerships. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said it will hold a hearing on whether Enron improperly sought favorable regulatory status that allowed it to charge higher rates for two wind farms in the state. The commission said in October that it would examine Enron's role in three other wind-power facilities.

General Electric agreed to buy Finland's Instrumentarium, the world's biggest makers of anesthesia systems, for $2.1 billion in cash. The purchase will help the GE Medical Systems unit keep pace in Europe with Siemens, which formed a joint venture in May for medical services including monitoring products.

Crude oil prices touched an 11-week high on concern that the United States is moving closer to a war with Iraq that will disrupt global oil shipments already reduced by strikes in Venezuela. The price of crude oil for January delivery rose 34 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $30.44 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the highest closing price since Oct. 2. Prices have risen 11 percent in five sessions.

Deputy Treasury Secretary Kenneth W. Dam will becoming acting secretary Jan. 1, running the department until CSX chief executive John W. Snow is confirmed by the Senate, Treasury spokesman Rob Nichols said. Snow was nominated Dec. 9 by President Bush to replace the ousted Paul H. O'Neill, whose resignation takes effect Dec. 31. Dam, 70, also plans to leave government once Snow is confirmed, according to administration officials.

Qwest received court permission to proceed with its $12.9 billion debt exchange offer over the protests of four bondholders. U.S. District Judge Denny Chin in New York denied the bondholders' request for a preliminary injunction blocking the exchange offer. The four bondholders had alleged that Qwest's offer was coercive and violated securities laws.

Revlon, which has lost money for 16 straight quarters, said billionaire Ronald Perelman will provide as much as $150 million in financing to ensure the New York-based cosmetics maker doesn't run out of cash. Perelman, owns 83 percent of Revlon.

The New York Times will raise the price of its weekday papers in the New York area to $1 starting Dec. 30. The paper said the increase, from 75 cents, brings the New York area in line with the rest of the country, where weekday copies have been $1 since 1995. The change will not affect home delivery or Sunday newspaper prices.

Sunbeam emerged from bankruptcy protection under a new name, American Household Inc. The maker of Mr. Coffee, Oster blenders and Coleman camping equipment sought Chapter 11 protection in February 2001, citing $3.2 billion in debt, most of it accumulated through acquisitions made by former chief executive Albert J. Dunlap. The Justice Department is investigating Sunbeam's finances during Dunlap's tenure.


IBM won a 10-year, $2.5 billion contract from Deutsche Bank to run its European computer data operations. IBM will consolidate Deutsche Bank centers in Belgium, Germany, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Switzerland, Spain and Luxembourg into a central data center in Germany's Rhine-Main region, the companies said.

Brazil received approval from the International Monetary Fund for a $3.1 billion loan, the latest installment in a record loan package the lending agency has established to try to shield South America's largest economy from a serious financial crisis in neighboring Argentina. The overall loan package of $30.7 billion was approved by the IMF board in September.

Allied Irish Banks shareholders approved the sale of the bank's scandal-scarred Allfirst Financial subsidiary to M&T Bank of Buffalo. Allied Irish is based in Dublin, and Allfirst Financial is based in Baltimore. The value of the cash-and-stock deal is about $3.1 billion. Allfirst became the focus of a currency-trading scandal in February when bank currency trader John M. Rusnak was discovered to have made a series of unauthorized trades that cost the bank $691.2 million.


Orix Capital Markets, a buyer of distressed real estate loans, offered to pay $520 million for a unit of Rockville-based commercial-mortgage company Criimi Mae. The all-cash offer for CBO REIT would generate net proceeds of $10.18 a share for Criimi Mae after repayment of debt, Orix chief executive James R. Thompson said. Criimi Mae received an offer Dec. 11 from Orix seeking to either buy the unit or all of Criimi Mae's shares, said James Pastore, a spokesman.


Bear Stearns, riding strength in its institutional equities and bond trading businesses, said its fiscal fourth-quarter net income jumped 23 percent, to $190.5 million, for the three months ended Nov. 30, despite a $33.9 million markdown related to a merchant-banking investment.

FedEx said second-quarter profits were flat at $245 million despite a 10 percent rise in sales, to $5.67 billion. In the year-ago period, the package-delivery giant recorded a $17 million tax gain and benefited from a $116 million infusion from the federal government after last year's terrorist attacks.

General Mills more than doubled its fiscal second-quarter earnings, to $276 million, on strong sales of Honey Nut Cheerios, Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Lucky Charms cereals, along with boosts from the Pillsbury line. Sales rose to $2.95 billion from $1.84 billion.

Oracle said second-quarter net income fell to $534.9 million, down 2.6 percent from the same period a year ago. Sales fell about 3 percent to $2.31 billion, and have declined seven consecutive quarters on a year-over-year basis.

Compiled from reports by the Associated Press, Bloomberg News, Dow Jones News Service and Washington Post staff writers

Monsanto chief executive Hendrik A. Verfaillie participates in a session on trade and agriculture at the World Economic Forum in New York City in February. Monsanto said Verfaillie resigned, effective immediately, ending a 26-year career at the agricultural products company. No reason was given, though the company has reported large losses this year.