Business & Finance

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Once their merger is complete, Northrop Grumman Corp. says it will sell control of rival defense contractor TRW's auto-parts business to the Blackstone Group, a private equity specialist, for $4.1 billion. Northrop Grumman said it would keep a 20 percent stake in TRW Automotive and would use proceeds from the sale to pay down debt.

Conseco Inc., the insurance and financial services giant, announced plans to file for bankruptcy protection. The Carmel, Ind.-based company reported a $1.8 billion third-quarter loss and said it hoped to reach a restructuring deal with creditors on its $6.5 billion debt, most of it stemming from acquisitions in the 1990s.

In the first such large-scale deal in the auto industry, Ford Credit sold $3 billion of its $205 billion vehicle leasing and loan portfolio to the investment bank Bear Stearns, The Financial Times reported. Ford Credit is the world leader in automotive financing, and the deal is designed to bolster the "zero percent" new-car financing program that parent Ford Motor Co. has struggled to fund.

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In a deal valued at $1.1 billion, Fortum Corp. agreed to sell its oil-exploration and production business to Italian energy giant Eni. The transaction requires the OK of regulators in neighboring Norway and the European Union. Fortum is owned by the government of Finland, but its oil operations are based in Norway and the North Sea.

In layoff news:

• Xerox announced a new round of job cuts affecting more than 2,400 workers. The layoffs will bring the printer/copier company's global workforce to below 68,000. Two years ago, it was 92,500.

• NCR Corp. said it will eliminate 1,500 jobs over the next six months. The Dayton, Ohio-based company provides computer services and makes electronic checkout scanners and automated teller machines.

• Toolmaker Black & Decker announced it will close an assembly plant in Easton, Md., 75 miles from its headquarters in suburban Baltimore, eliminating 1,300 jobs. The plant makes products under the company's DeWalt brand. Its operations will be shifted to Mexico, Brazil, and North Carolina.

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