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Consuming nations should lower their gasoline taxes before complaining about the likely affect at the pump of OPEC's latest decision to cut production, a cartel official said. The 11-nation group voted Saturday to reduce exports by a further 1 million barrels a day, beginning April 1, following a 1.5 million barrel-a-day cut OK'd in January. In the US, the Bush administration led the chorus of consumers expressing disappointment at the vote and said it would press ahead with plans to diversify energy supplies. Analysts predicted the new cut would only drive down demand, especially in the US and Asia, whose economies are weakening.

Kraft, the largest US food company, said it plans to sell stock to the public for the first time in hopes of raising as much as $5 billion. In its filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Kraft said it intends to use funds raised from the initial public offering to pay back debt owed to its parent, Philip Morris. In addition to products under its own name, Kraft markets such brands as Post cereals, Jell-O, Maxwell House coffee, Ritz crackers, Oscar Mayer hot dogs, and DiGiorno pizza.

A merger that would result in the world's second-largest mining company was expected to be announced by Australia's giant BHP Ltd. and London-based Billiton PLC as the Monitor went to press, although neither company would comment for the record. Only Alcoa of the US would be larger, reports said. The newspaper Sunday Business said the deal would give the combined companies a capitalization of $29 billion. BHP has oil, gas, copper, iron ore, coal, and gold mining operations in more than 30 countries. Billiton is the No. 1 producer of chrome and manganese.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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