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A strike at Volkswagen AG's only North American plant, in Puebla, Mexico, halted production at the one factory in the world making the company's New Beetle. The walkout began Friday after salary talks with unions representing 12,600 employees collapsed, although perhaps only temporarily. The workers are demanding a 35 percent wage increase, while the company is offering a raise closer to Mexican inflation, expected to be about 10 percent this year. In August last year, Volkswagen de Mexico avoided a strike by giving union laborers a 19.9 percent salary increase.

Wal-Mart, apparently seeking to bolster its presence in Britain, is considering making a $9 billion bid for the health and beauty retailer Boots, the Independent on Sunday reported. The British newspaper noted that Boots's share price has languished close to a five-year low largely because of the arrival of Wal-Mart in Britain - although the US retail giant has faltered in making significant inroads and so far has opened only one new store. The acquisition of Nottingham, England-based Boots, whose stores are found predominantly in main-street locations, would mark a new tack for a company that has become synonymous with gigantic out-of-town outlets, the Independent asserted. Last year Wal-Mart acquired British supermarket Asda for $10 billion.

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