Business & Finance
National Century Financial Enterprises, which supplies financing for healthcare providers, filed for bankruptcy protection, listing $4.1 billion in debts. The filing came two days after FBI agents raided the company's offices in Columbus, Ohio. Citing problems with an audit, National Century hadn't paid its clients in weeks, forcing at least two into bankruptcy.
IBM won a contract to build the world's two fastest supercomputers for the Department of Energy. The deal is valued at up to $267 million. One of the new machines, dubbed ASCI Purple, will be capable of more than 100 trillion calculations per second - more than twice as fast as the most powerful computer currently in use. It will be used for simulated nuclear-weapons tests. The other, Blue Gene/L, will be used in broader scientific research.
In airline industry news:
• United's parent company, UAL Corp., struggling to avoid bankruptcy, announced $1.3 billion in pay cuts for non-union employees. The reductions of between 2.8 percent and 10.7 percent for management and salaried employees take effect Dec. 1.
• Delta said it is changing its employee retirement plan to reduce rising pension costs, treating benefits as an account balance rather than a monthly benefit. • American has begun limited testing of a simplified pricing system that trims full-fare coach tickets up to 40 percent, The Wall Street Journal reported.
• Swiss, the former Swissair, said it will cut 300 jobs and shed eight planes from its 128-plane fleet, after posting a $93 million net loss in the third quarter.
Royal Ahold, the world's largest retailer of food products, announced it will sell all noncore assets amid an "extra-painful second revision" of its outlook for the current business year. It blamed much of the problem on high costs and rising taxes on its South American operations. Other "consistently underperforming" units also will be subjected to "rigorous scrutiny" and possible divestment, the Zaandam, Netherlands-based group said. It owns or has stakes in supermarkets, online sales operations, distributorships, and convenience and liquor stores in 25 European, Asian, and Western Hemisphere countries.