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A partner in what was to be the world's third-largest bank announced it will continue to operate independently instead. Asahi Bank's pullout from a joint holding company with Japanese rivals Sanwa Bank and Tokai Bank came because the merger would have given Sanwa a disproportionate share of power, a senior official said. The merger was unveiled in March and would have been the last in a series of efforts to restructure Japan's banking sector so it will be more competitive internationally. Asahi, Sanwa, and Tokai would have had combined assets of almost $1 trillion. Sanwa and Tokai said they'd press ahead with the merger plan. Later this year, Industrial Bank of Japan, Fuji Bank, and Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank plan to merge into the world's largest. Germany's Deutsche Bank and Dresdner Bank are due next month to combine resources and become the second-largest.

Almost 9,000 workers are to be laid off by high-profile employers in Britain, reports said. Fashion retailer C&A said it would close all 109 of its stores and three distribution centers, idling 4,800 employees, after five years of heavy financial losses. C&A, based in Belgium, has been in business in Britain for more than 70 years. Another 3,800 jobs will be cut by aerospace and defense contractor BAE Systems PLC. The year-old company resulted from the merger of British Aerospace and Marconi Corp. PLC.

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