OfficeMax and Office Depot discussing potential merger

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that OfficeMax Inc. and Office Depot Inc. are talking about combining their companies.

The newspaper, citing unidentified people familiar with the matter, said Monday that talks are at an advanced stage, and an announcement could come as early as this week.

OfficeMax reports its fourth-quarter results on Thursday, while Office Depot is expected to report results next week. Representatives of both companies declined to comment on merger talks.

The office supply business is very competitive. Staples is a big player, along with Amazon and big discount stores such as Costco and Wal-Mart.

Boca Raton, Fla.-based Office Depot has about 1,675 stores worldwide, mostly in the U.S. and Canada. OfficeMax, based in Naperville, Ill., has about 900 stores in the U.S. and Mexico. If the two companies merged, they could close stores that compete against each other, as well as reduce costs.

Protesters clash with police as Iberia workers start strike 

Protesters clashed with police at Madrid’s international airport as ground staff and cabin crews for Spain’s Iberia began 15 days of strikes to protest plans to lay off 3,800 staff.

The company, which is looking to cut jobs after it reported substantial losses last year, says the stoppages will lead to more than 1,200 flight cancellations over the next three weeks, including 236 the first day.

Police used batons to push back hundreds of protesters as they tried to enter the terminal at midday. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

Other demonstrations took place at airports around the country.

A government decree on minimum services guarantees 90 percent of long-haul flights, 61 percent of medium-haul and 46 percent of domestic flights on stoppage days.

Unions representing most Iberia workers, but not pilots, have called the strikes between Feb. 18-22, March 4-8 and March 18-22.

The company says it has found seats on other flights for most of the 70,000 passengers affected.

Iberia, Lineas Aereas de Espana S.A., claims economic difficulties oblige it to make layoffs. The government has called on the company and unions to reach an agreement and end the strike.

Iberia merged with British Airways to create International Airlines Group in 2011. 

Bundesbank says Germany on track to avoid recession

German’s central bank says the country’s economy is on track to avoid a recession as it shows signs of growth in the first three months of the year.

Europe’s largest economy shrank 0.6 percent in the last quarter of 2012. Two straight quarters of falling output is a common definition of recession.

The Bundesbank says in its monthly report out Monday that increasing business optimism and easing fears about the government debt crisis among the 17 European Union euro countries mean business may become more willing to invest and expand. That means that “a plus in total economic production can be expected for the first quarter of 2013.”

A growing German economy could help speed the eurozone’s recovery, which is mired in recession. Governments are cutting spending and raising taxes to reduce heavy levels of debt, slowing their economies. Greece, Portugal and Ireland have needed bailout loans from the other eurozone members, while Spain and Italy are in recessions with high unemployment.

The European Central Bank says the eurozone will shrink 0.3 percent in 2013 and only start to recover later in the year. Growth is key for solving the debt crisis, since it shrinks the size of country’s debts relative to their economy and increases revenue from income and business taxes.

German growth helps the other countries in the eurozone because German consumers purchase imports from them, and because German companies use firms in neighboring countries as suppliers.