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The intense rivalry between Boeing Co. and Airbus of Europe erupted into a trade war Wednesday, as the Bush administration alleged that the latter has received at least $15 billion in illegal subsidies from the governments of France, Germany, Spain, and Britain. Without that aid, its complaint to the World Trade Organization (WTO) argues, Airbus could not have overtaken Boeing as the world's No. 1 builder of aircraft. The European Union retaliated with a counter-complaint that Boeing has been the recipient of $23 billion in research and development aid from the US government, plus $3 billion worth of tax breaks pledged by the state of Washington. The two sides have a 12-year-old agreement that forbids such aid to either company. The dispute is believed to be the largest to come before the WTO so far. Analysts said, however, that the pressure to find a compromise solution will be great.

The parent company of bankrupt United Airlines said the carrier soon will begin offering more overseas flights - particularly to Asia - and fewer domestic flights in an effort to return to profitability. By next March, international capacity will be boosted by 14 percent, UAL Corp. announced. Under the plan, international operations would account for more than 40 percent of United's capacity and a bit more than half of its revenue. United has struggled to cope with high fuel prices, overcapacity, and competition from fast-growing discount airlines.

Corning Inc. will take noncash charges of up to $2.9 billion in the third quarter because of declining prospects for its fiber-optic cable in the telecommunications market, Bloomberg.com reported. "We are not seeing significant signs of the broad uplift in industry conditions previously projected for 2005 and beyond," a spokesman said. The company, previously best known for its kitchenware products, is based in Corning, N.Y.

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Clorox Co., the nation's largest maker of household bleach, and its German partner of 30 years announced the breakup of their relationship. In an exchange worth $2.8 billion, Clorox will transfer its Combat pest-control and Soft Scrub brands and cash for the 29 percent share of its stock held by Henkel KGaA of Düsseldorf. Analysts said that, although profitable, Soft Scrub and the Combat products are not among Clorox's key brands.

Unilever, the consumer goods marketing giant, said it will close its Birds Eye frozen food plant in Grimsby, England, next year. The move will eliminate the jobs of 600 people who package prepared meals. The Birds Eye brand is not related to company of the same name in the US.

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