Business & Finance

Delta Air Lines plans to cut 7,000 more jobs over the next 18 months, the carrier said Wednesday. The layoffs are part of a sweeping restructuring plan aimed at saving more than $5 billion. The plan also calls for reducing wages, obliging employees to contribute more to their own health insurance premiums, and dropping Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport as one of Delta's four hubs. Despite these measures, chairman Gerald Grinstein said "bankruptcy is a real possibility." Delta already has cut its work force by about 16,000 people in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

With the video rental industry in decline, media giant Viacom Inc. announced an offer whose goal is to get out from under ownership of the Blockbuster chain. It calls for giving stockholders a premium of up to 19 percent if they trade their Viacom shares for those of Blockbuster by Oct. 15 - putting the latter company entirely in shareholder hands. Viacom has tried unsuccessfully to find a corporate buyer for the chain, which it acquired 10 years ago for $6.7 billion.

Bain Capital of Boston will buy SuperPages Canada from Verizon Communications Inc. for $1.54 billion, the latter announced. SuperPages is that nation's second-largest publisher of telephone and business-to-business directories. Bain, a leading private equity investor, also bid more than $1 billion earlier this week for CBR Holding, one of Europe's leading retailers of women's apparel.

With an eye to acquiring Britain's Abbey National PLC, the largest bank in Spain said it will sever some of its ties to 16-year partner Royal Bank of Scotland - selling up to $2.25 billion worth of stock and ending the practice of placing directors on each others' boards. Santander Central Hispano has bid $15.5 billion for Abbey National but wants "to free up cash in case it has to raise its offer," an industry analyst told Bloomberg.com. At least one other bank, HBOS PLC, Britain's largest mortgage lender, has expressed interest in acquiring Abbey.

The world's largest operator of hotels announced it will put more than half of them on the market under a plan to focus on franchising. InterContinental Hotels Group of Windsor, England, said it also will return $1.34 billion to its shareholders. The hotels to be sold were not identified, but their book value is $2.3 billion. InterContinental has more than 3,300 properties in almost 100 countries under its own name and such others as Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, and Crowne Plaza.

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