Business & Finance

Phillips Petroleum Co. said it will buy rival Conoco Inc. for about $15.4 billion, creating the US's No. 3 oil and gas company, behind Exxon Mobil and ChevronTexaco Corp. Phillips, which bought refining company Tosco Corp. earlier this year, will gain extra strength as a producer of petroleum. The combined market value of the new company, ConocoPhillips, would be $35 billion. It would have reserves of 8.7 billion barrels of oil equivalent, daily production of 1.7 million barrels, and $18.6 billion in debt and preferred securities. The company would operate or have equity interests in 19 refineries in the US, the U.K., Ireland, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Malaysia. ConocoPhillips would be based in Houston, home to Conoco, and keep a reduced presence in Bartlesville, Okla., where Phillips is headquartered. The merger is expected to close in the second half of 2002, pending regulatory and shareholder approval.

Alcoa Inc., the world's largest aluminum producer, will cut 6,500 jobs, or 4.6 percent of its global workforce, to make its manufacturing operations more efficient amid a climate of low metal prices and weak demand. The Pittsburgh-based company said cuts will affect workers at 40 locations in the Americas and Europe.

Some 16,000 workers at Volkswagen AG's largest Brazilian factory suspended a week-long strike and prepared to vote on a compromise to save 3,000 jobs by cutting pay and working hours. Employees at the Sao Bernardo de Campo factory, which produces up to 900 cars daily, walked off their jobs last week after Volkswagen Brazil dismissed 3,000 workers, citing high pay and slumping demand for new cars. The deal reportedly includes the voluntary early retirement of 700 workers and could include 15 percent cuts in pay and hours.

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