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United emerges from Chap. 11 amid industry turbulence

CHICAGO -- United Airlines embarked yesterday on what it called ''a new beginning," soaring free of bankruptcy for the first time since 2002 but no longer able to turn to a court for assistance as it faces industry conditions that may be harsher than those when it entered Chapter 11 38 months ago.

The end of bankruptcy for United and parent UAL Corp. came with the filing of exit documents in US Bankruptcy Court, climaxing the longest and costliest airline restructuring in history.

All told, United shed $7 billion in annual expenditures during the makeover. The next chapter of its recovery won't be easy, either, with the slimmed-down carrier having to overcome near-record oil prices and discount competition if it is to make its first profit since 2000.

Many investors were bullish ahead of the trading debut of the company's new stock on the Nasdaq Stock Market today. United's early estimates were that the stock, which will trade under the symbol UAUA, would trade for about $15 a share, but yesterday shares were selling for $41.50 over the counter.

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