Business & Finance

Citing investor interest, General Motors increased a planned debt issue to $16.9 billion - the largest such offering in US history. The automaker previously had announced plans to sell $10 billion in securities, to be used in part to fund its lagging US pension plans.

Electronic Data Systems Corp. announced a $1.7 billion debt issue - $600 million more than earlier planned - to improve liquidity. In response, EDS shares fell 7 percent to close at $21.02 Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange, and the computer network manager's credit- worthiness was cut by Moody's and Fitch's ratings services. EDS is based in Plano, Texas.

Deeply troubled Fiat SpA added another 4,300 layoffs to the deep round of job cuts announced last October and said it will seek to sell $2.1 billion worth of new stock to help recover from two years of losses in its automaking division. The additional layoffs bring the total to 12,300, the majority of which will come outside Italy, the company's home base. Over the past year and a half, Fiat has sold almost $10.3 billion worth of assets to lower its massive debt. It projects a return to profitability in 2006.

In an about-face, federal regulators gave their blessing to the $2.8 billion acquisition of ice cream maker Dreyer's by Nestlé, the world's largest marketer of food. As recently as March, the Federal Trade Commission was raising objections to the deal on grounds that if it were allowed, Nestlé would command 60 percent of the US market for superpremium ice cream. But along with other concessions, the giant Swiss company agreed to sell off Dreyer's Godiva and Dreamery brands and its Whole Fruit sorbets.

Insurance giant American International Group agreed to buy General Electric's Japanese insurance unit and its US auto and home business for $2.15 billion, both companies announced. The acquisition will make AIG Japan that nation's sixth-largest life insurer, and a senior regional executive said more deals are possible.

With a midnight deadline looming Thursday, contract negotiations between Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. and the union representing 16,000 steelworkers remained deadlocked, the Financial Times reported. The world's third-largest tiremaker wants to cut jobs and close some of its 14 US plants in a larger restructuring - proposals that the union opposes. Goodyear is based in Akron, Ohio.

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