LABOR

Qwest, Union Agree on Contract

Qwest Communications International and the Communications Workers of America tentatively agreed on a new contract for 25,000 employees after eight weeks of negotiations. The three-year agreement, covering workers in 13 states, gives the employees a 7.5 percent wage increase, continued health care with a new enrollment fee for spouses and family members and a limit on mandatory overtime to eight hours a week, the union said. Union members still must ratify the tentative contract.

LITIGATION

Panel Clears Kmart Ex-CEO

An arbitration panel cleared former Kmart chief executive Charles C. Conaway of accusations that he squandered millions of dollars as the discount retailer slid into bankruptcy. The panel unanimously voted to deny damages to Kmart Creditor Trust, an organization formed to recover billions of dollars the retailer owed creditors when it filed for bankruptcy protection in January 2002.

REGULATORS

SEC Prepares to Sue Goodyear

Goodyear Tire & Rubber said the Securities and Exchange Commission is preparing to sue the company over accounting that prompted an investigation in 2003.

The SEC sent a Wells notice, which warns that its staff plans to recommend civil or administrative action for alleged violations of its rules, the company said. Such notices also were sent to Robert W. Tieken, a former chief financial officer, and Stephanie W. Bergeron, a former chief accounting officer, Goodyear spokesman Keith Price said.

"We have cooperated fully with the SEC, and this is the next step in the process," Price said. "We continue to implement ongoing improvements in financial controls."

MERGERS & ACQUISITIONS

Neiman Marcus Sale Approved

Neiman Marcus Group shareholders approved the luxury retailer's $5.1 billion sale to buyout firms Texas Pacific Group and Warburg Pincus, which plan to expand the company as demand for designer goods surges. More than 99.7 percent of votes cast, representing about 74.3 percent of shares outstanding, favored the $100-per-share cash bid, Dallas-based Neiman Marcus said in a statement. Approval was expected after the family of Chairman Richard A. Smith said it would vote its 12.4 percent stake for the deal.

The deal is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter.

AUTOMOTIVE

Parts Supplier Seeks Partner

Lear, which posted a second-quarter loss last month and had its debt cut to junk status, said it is interested in a joint venture with bankrupt auto-parts supplier Collins & Aikman. A deal could involve both companies spinning off their automotive interiors units into a separate company, Lear said in a letter sent to Collins & Aikman and disclosed in a regulatory filing.

Collins & Aikman disclosed last week that another supplier, Plastech Engineered Products, was interested in buying Collins & Aikman assets. Collins & Aikman doesn't plan to meet with Plastech or any other company before Aug. 31, Collins & Aikman's chief restructuring officer, John Boken, said last week.

AIRLINES

American Raises Fuel Surcharge

American Airlines said it is raising the surcharges on international fares to help offset soaring fuel costs. The air carrier added a $10 surcharge each way, or $20 round trip, on flights to and from international destinations, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, effective immediately.

On Friday, the company increased most domestic fares by $10 per round trip, and some by $20 per round trip, to match Delta Airlines' recent fare increases.

Home Depot, the nation's largest home-improvement chain, said second-quarter profit rose 14 percent, to $1.77 billion, compared with the corresponding period a year earlier. Revenue for the three months ended July 31 rose 12 percent, to $22.31 billion.

Staples said second-quarter profit climbed 20 percent, to $147.2 million, boosted by new contracts and a 17 percent sales increase in its North American delivery unit. Revenue rose 12 percent, to $3.47 billion.

Deere & Co., the world's largest farm equipment maker, said third-quarter profit fell 3 percent, to $387 million, as a drought in the Midwest hurt sales and caused late-quarter production cuts.

Revenue for the three months ended July 31 rose 11 percent, to $6 billion, buoyed by an increase in sales of construction and forestry equipment.

Compiled from staff and news service reports.

Former Kmart CEO Charles C. Conaway was cleared of accusations of wrongdoing in a civil suit related to the company's 2002 bankruptcy.