GE Sells Most of Unit to Swiss Re

General Electric sold most of its GE Insurance Solutions unit to Swiss Reinsurance for $6.8 billion in cash and stock, completing a strategy to leave a troublesome segment and redeploy cash to investors and faster-growing businesses.

The sale fulfills a strategy the company began three years ago to sell its insurance businesses.

Over the past five years, the insurance business lost $700 million and required the infusion of $3.2 billion of capital, company officials said.

"We think this is a tremendous drag that has been eliminated from this company going forward," GE chairman and chief executive Jeffrey R. Immelt said during a conference call with analysts. GE expects an after-tax loss of about $2.8 billion from the sale.


Ford Plans to Cut 4,000 Jobs

Ford Motor Co., the second-biggest U.S. automaker, plans to cut 4,000 salaried jobs in its core North American division by the end of the first quarter, Executive Vice President Mark Fields told employees in an e-mail. The cuts are part of a previously disclosed restructuring that Ford plans to announce in January.

The company had about 40,000 white-collar workers in its North American division at the beginning of the year, according to spokesman Oscar Suris, who confirmed the content of the e-mail. Ford has not yet determined how many of the cuts will come through buyouts and firings, Suris said.

Earlier this year, Ford cut about 2,750 salaried jobs in North America.

Delphi Says Plants Could Close

All of Delphi's U.S. plants will have to close unless unions agree to wage cuts to help the auto-parts manufacturer leave bankruptcy protection, chief executive Robert S. Miller Jr. said. He said he has not received counteroffers from the United Auto Workers to proposals including wage cuts to as low as $10 an hour.

Miller has said he will ask the bankruptcy court to let the company impose terms if unions don't agree to pay and benefit reductions by Dec. 16.


Under Armour Almost Doubles

Under Armour shares rose sharply on their first day of trading, overshadowing other initial public offerings. The Baltimore-based maker of athletic wear founded by a former University of Maryland football player, got off to a strong start on the Nasdaq Stock Market and maintained much of the day's gain. Shares were up $12.30, to $25.30, from the IPO price of $13 a share for 12.1 million shares.

The offering price came in above the expected price range of $10 to $12 a share. Registers IPO registered an initial public offering of about 4.17 million common shares with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The Alios Viejo, Calif.-based e-commerce company set a price of $11 to $13 a share for the stock, which will trade on the Nasdaq National Market under the symbol "BUYY". said it would use some of the $45.2 million of proceeds from the IPO to repay debt and to launch an advertising campaign.


Liz Claiborne Seeks to Buy J. Jill

Liz Claiborne Inc. made an unsolicited offer worth about $366 million for J. Jill Group. A previous bid to buy the upscale women's apparel seller failed this year.

Liz Claiborne -- which has snapped up such brands as Sigrid Olsen and Juicy Couture -- said that it offered to buy all outstanding shares of J. Jill for $18 a share, in cash and that it would be willing to pay more if necessary. J. Jill closed at $18.51 a share, up $5.72.

California Clears Phone Mergers

California officials approved SBC Communications' purchase of AT&T, clearing the final regulatory hurdle for the $16 billion deal. The California Public Utility Commission also gave its consent to Verizon Communications' planned purchase of MCI for about $8.5 billion, but that deal is still awaiting approval in other states.

SBC to Guarantee AT&T Debt

SBC Communications said it will guarantee part of AT&T's debt, pending the completion of its $16 billion acquisition of the telecom giant. The San Antonio-based communications company said it will guarantee $848.1 million worth of AT&T euro-denominated 7.75 percent notes, which are due Nov. 21 next year.


Central Bank May Raise Rate

European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet said the bank's governing council is ready to raise its benchmark interest rate. The bank has kept the rate at 2 percent since June 2003. On Thursday, the European Commission lowered its 2005 economic growth forecast to 1.5 percent for the European Union and 1.3 percent for nations using the euro common currency.


Thomson Plans Digital Theaters

Thomson, the world's largest supplier of recorded DVDs, plans to arrange about $527 million in financing to pay for digital-projection screens in 5,000 U.S. and Canadian movie theaters in the next four years.

The French company said Nov. 10 it has agreements with Universal Pictures, DreamWorks, Warner Bros. and Sony Pictures and is close to agreements with three other studios.

A digital cinema system costs $90,000 to $100,000 per screen. Thomson plans to convert at least 15,000 movie screens in the next 10 years and expects to begin installing the systems in the first quarter of 2006.

Compiled from staff and news service reports.