Business & Finance

General Motors and Ford plan to cut vehicle production in the second quarter due to sagging US sales, The Wall Street Journal reported. New car and light-truck sales declined 6.9 percent in February, with GM sales down 19 percent, the Journal said. The news wasn't all bad for automakers, however. Sales of the gas-electric hybrid Toyota Prius jumped 33 percent last month.

Troubled supermarket giant Royal Ahold NV took a new public relations hit with the disclosure that its executives waited to reveal a massive overstatement of profits until after they won a new $3.1 billion line of credit from a consortium of US and Dutch banks. Royal Ahold acknowledged Feb. 24 that it overreported profits from some of its operations by $500 million for the years 2001 and 2002. The lenders include Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan of the US and ABN Amro, Rabobank, and ING Group of the Netherlands. A company spokesman declined to comment on the timing of the two developments.

Global hotel operator Six Continents PLC rejected the $8.8 billion hostile takeover bid by hospitality-industry tycoon Hugh Osmond. In a statement, the company called Monday's offer "remarkably short on detail" and said Osmond intended to sell some of its hotels "at the bottom of the business cycle, when their market value was ... lowest." Among other properties, Six Continents owns the Inter-Continental, Crowne Plaza, and Holiday Inn chains.

AutoNation Inc., the US's No. 1 car retailer, will pay the Internal Revenue Service $470 million to settle tax claims related to employee-benefits deductions between 1997 and 1999. The settlement is about $200 million less than the company had anticipated, the Florida Sun-Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale reported. AutoNation is based in that city.

Weyerhaeuser Co., the forest products giant, said it will stop producing plywood at its plant in Millport, Ala., resulting in the loss of 250 jobs. Lumbering operations at the plant will not be affected, the company said.

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