Alcoa, the world's No. 1 producer of aluminum, has agreed to sell control of its Worsley, Australia, refinery to rival Billiton PLC, the companies announced in London. The $1.49 billion deal was Billiton's second major acquisition in two weeks. Earlier, the South African company agreed to pay $1.15 billion for Canadian mining group Rio Algom Ltd. The Worsley refinery is regarded as the world's most efficient producer of alumina, an interim stage in the making of aluminum from ore. For Alcoa, the deal was a condition of its August 1999 merger with Reynolds Metals Co.
Citing a need to improve efficiency, Wachovia Corp. became the latest major US bank to announce a round of layoffs. The Winston-Salem, N.C.-based company said it would eliminate 8.5 percent of its workforce, or 1,800 jobs, in an effort to reduce annual expenses by $100 million. Wachovia has assets of $68.8 billion and operates 700 branches in the Carolinas, Virginia, Georgia, and Florida. Last month, Bank of America said it will cut as many as 10,000 jobs. In June, First Union Corp. dismissed 2,350 employees.
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