Business

Online error sends UAL stock plunging

United Airlines parent UAL Corp. said it didn't file for bankruptcy, after a 2002 Chicago Tribune news report on the carrier's filing was mistakenly republished on a newspaper Web site.

The shares fell as much as 76 percent before trading was halted for about 90 minutes, then recovered most of the decline. UAL trades between 10:55 a.m. and 11:08 a.m. New York time won't be canceled, the Nasdaq Stock Market said on its Web site.

The 6-year-old news report was posted online by the (South Florida) Sun-Sentinel and was picked up by Income Securities Advisors Inc., said Richard Lehmann, president of the Miami Lakes, Fla.-based research firm. Income Securities Advisors distributed the report before retracting it and issuing a correction.

Income Securities published a summary of the 2002 story after finding it during a routine online search for news stories about bankruptcy filings, Lehmann said.

Bloomberg News also ran a headline citing the Tribune story after the Income Securities Advisors report.

“United has demanded a retraction from the Sun-Sentinel and is launching an investigation,” the Chicago-based carrier said in a statement. UAL filed for bankruptcy on Dec. 9, 2002, and left court supervision on Feb. 1, 2006. United is the world's second-biggest airline by passenger traffic.

According to an article posted Monday on the Sun-Sentinel's site, Joseph Schwerdt, the paper's deputy managing editor-interactive, said records showed that no one had opened the original story file since 2003. The story would have been available via a search on the site, but no one outside the paper should have had access to the story file, Schwerdt said.

Tribune Co., which owns the Chicago Tribune and the Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Sun-Sentinel, said it also was investigating.

UAL has had net losses totaling $3.32 billion during the past three quarters as it pared the value of assets to blunt record high fuel prices.

Trading in UAL shares resumed around midday. The stock closed down $1.38, or 11 percent, to $10.92. It traded as low as $3 per share after the rumor began.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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