Business & Finance

Reaction to the massive corporate overhaul announced Friday by Ford Motor Co. was swift and, in at least one case, angry. Although some industry analysts applauded the comprehensive plan, two credit ratings agencies lowered their assessments of the world's No. 2 automaker and its financing arm, Ford Credit. And the president of the Canadian Auto Workers Union, Buzz Hargrove, vowed to fight the company's intention to phase out its Oakville, Ontario, truck plant both in contract negotiations later this year and with a strike, if necessary. Hargrove blamed the announced closure, in part, on a feeling of nationalism since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that makes it "political" to protect US auto plants at the expense of those in Canada. Ford's overhaul also calls for the closing of four other assembly or parts plants, the layoffs of 35,000 workers worldwide, and discontinuing four slow-selling models: the Escort, Lincoln Continental, Mercury Cougar, and Villager minivan. The company also said it plans to unload $3 billion worth of convertible bonds over the next two months - in what would be the third-largest such sale in US corporate history - although industry analysts said the downgraded credit ratings could blunt the effectiveness of that initiative.

Using blistering language, a senior government official in Argentina rejected the latest advice from the International Monetary Fund on rescuing its deeply troubled economy. Jorge Todesca, the vice minister for the economy, said the IMF's call Friday for a more coherent strategy was itself "incoherent" as well as "offensive" and that the agency "should talk less, especially if they have nothing interesting to say." The IMF has labeled Argentina's new two-currency system "unsustainable," and last month it refused to send $1.3 billion in previously committed aid to the Buenos Aires government. In newspaper interviews Sunday, new President Eduardo Duhalde warned Argentines that the nation's deep economic crisis would take longer to resolve than the two-year mandate given him by Congress Jan. 1.

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