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The proposed $21 billion Hewlett-Packard/Compaq Computer merger won easy approval by the latter's shareholders. The vote, in a Houston hotel ballroom, was running 90 percent "yes," based on early returns, Compaq officials said. It came one day after a contentious vote by Hewlett-Packard investors, whose outcome may not be announced for weeks, although company chief Carly Fiorina already has claimed a narrow victory.

A bankruptcy filing appeared imminent by one of the world's largest construction companies, Philipp Holzmann Group, as the Monitor went to press. The company, which employs 23,000 people, was appealing for last-minute reconsideration by creditor banks of a rescue plan they rejected only the day before as "unworkable." Frankfurt, Germany-based Holzmann builds mass transit systems and commercial and public buildings. It was saved from insolvency in 1999 by a $1.95 billion government bailout, but has continued to struggle, posting a $230 million loss last year.

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The second-largest annual loss – $7.3 billion – in the history of French business was reported by state-owned communications giant France Telecom. The company cited as the main reason its decision to lower the estimated value of assets bought during the "stock market euphoria" of 2000 and 2001. Only a year ago, it reported a $3.2 billion profit. Earlier this month, media conglomerate Vivendi reported a $12 billion net loss for its 2001 fiscal year.

Herman Miller Inc., a leading maker of office furniture, said it will close a Holland, Mich., plant, eliminating 600 jobs in the face of declining sales. Since December 2000, the company has laid off almost 3,900 workers. It is based in nearby Zeeland, Mich.