Business & Finance

United Parcel Service and Airbus Industries have opened discussions on reducing an order by at least 20 cargo planes worth an estimated $1.6 billion, reports said. UPS agreed in 1998 and 2001 to buy 90 planes valued at $10 billion from the European aerospace giant, but since then the Atlanta-based shipper has been hit hard by an economic downturn and a consumer shift to less expensive ground-delivery service. Because some of the A300-600 planes already are in production, Airbus has told UPS it can't cancel more than 16, The Wall Street Journal reported.

SBC Communications, the majority owner of Cingular Wireless, plans to sell 650,000 telephone lines concentrated in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and in East Texas, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing sources familiar with the matter. It said the sale, which could raise about $1.5 billion, should help fund Cingular's purchase of AT&T Wireless. SBC and BellSouth Corp., which owns 40 percent of Cingular, agreed to the $41 billion megadeal two weeks ago to form the nation's biggest cellphone service provider.

The world's largest mining company, BHP Billiton, said it has agreed to a $7 billion, 25-year joint venture to supply ore to China's booming steel industry. Chinese mills also buy ore from BHP Billiton rivals Companhia Vale do Rio Doce of Brazil and Rio Tinto Group of London. BHP Billiton is based in Melbourne, Australia, and is a partner in a consortium that supplies liquefied natural gas to China under a 24-year deal.

The $1.3 billion assembly plant planned for Europe by Hyundai Motor Co. will be sited in Slovakia, the Financial Times reported. It said the announcement would be made at the annual Geneva Motor Show, which opens in the Swiss city Thursday. The plant also had been sought by Poland. Almost one-third of Hyundai's exports in 2003 went to the European market, and the South Korean automaker has set a goal of doubling its sales there by next year, the Financial Times said.

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