Business & Finance

J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. agreed to buy Bank One Corp. in a $58 billion megadeal that, if approved by regulators and shareholders, will create the nation's second-largest bank. The combined company would have 2,300 branches and $1.1 trillion in assets. Integrating the banks is expected to result in the loss of as many as 10,000 jobs, although J.P. Morgan Chase chief William Harrison said "hopefully" the number will be smaller. Harrison will cede his post in 2006 to Bank One's Jamie Dimon; in the meantime, Dimon will serve as president and chief operating officer. Both hinted at possible future acquisitions once the merger is complete. J.P. Morgan's headquarters are in New York. Bank One is based in Chicago.

For the first time, aerospace giant Boeing finished behind its chief rival, Airbus Industrie, in the number of commercial planes delivered to customers last year, reports said. The Financial Times said Airbus also ended 2003 with a 44-plane edge over Boeing in "firm" orders for future deliveries - the fourth time in five years that has happened. The difference in deliveries for 2003: 305 to 281, giving Airbus a 52 percent production share. However, the Financial Times said Boeing reported only a one-plane cancellation rate last year, versus 30 for Airbus. The French-German conglomerate expects to deliver "close to 300" planes of at least 100 seats this year, while Boeing already has lowered its projected total to as few as 275, the newspaper said.

US Airways will close its Allegheny Airlines subsidiary by April, the struggling carrier announced Wednesday. If it can win union approval, the airline said it will merge Allegheny's operations with Piedmont Airlines, another regional unit. Otherwise, company officials warned of possible liquidation. Allegheny is based in Middletown, Pa., and has a work force of 1,400 people.

A round of layoffs that will cost 900 employees their jobs was announced by Boots Group PLC, the largest drugstore chain in Britain. The company said it expects to complete the payroll reductions over the next six months. Boots operates 1,400 pharmacies in England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, along with vision-correction clinics, opticians shops, and dentistry centers. It also manufactures over-the-counter drugs.

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