Business & Finance

Verizon, which has the inside track in a takeover battle with Qwest Communications to acquire MCI, appeared to improve its position by agreeing to buy a 13 percent stake in MCI from Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim. The $1.1 billion deal makes Verizon the largest shareholder in MCI and represents another setback for Qwest, whose offer is 16 percent higher. Qwest is seen as the less financially stable of the two bidders. Still, it appears unready to give up the fight. Last Friday, it released the results of a survey showing that more than half of MCI's shareholders support its bid, the Rocky Mountain News reported.

Adelphia Communications, the bankrupt cable-TV operator, has agreed to be acquired by a Time Warner-Comcast partnership for $18 billion, sources close to the situation said. The cash and stock deal was finalized late last Thursday despite a last-minute rival bid by Cablevision Systems Corp. for $16.5 billion, the sources said.

The 6,100 employees of MG Rover were instructed to report to work Monday, but perhaps only to be handed layoff checks after the British automaker filed for bankruptcy over the weekend. The Sunday Telegraph (London) reported that Phoenix Venture Holdings, the company's parent, "is poised" to do the same. PricewaterhouseCoopers, the accounting firm, was examining the automaker's books to try to determine whether it can be salvaged or whether its assets will have to be sold to repay creditors. Meanwhile, The Sunday Times (London) said China's Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp., which last week backed out of negotiations for a joint venture that would have rescued MG Rover, "believes it has taken possession of the Rover name" as the result of an earlier deal between them. Analysts said the collapse could have profound implications for Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Labour Party, which face a critical reelection vote early next month.

In layoff news:

• Newly merged Sears Roebuck and Kmart revised layoff plans at their suburban Chicago headquarters, announcing that 500 jobs will be eliminated instead of the previously announced 250. But they said the vast majority of their 400,000 employees nationwide will keep their jobs.

• Duracell, a subsidiary of The Gillette Co., said it will close its Lexington, N.C., lithium battery plant next year. The facility employs 280 people. The decision stems from the drop in the sale of cameras that use lithium batteries and not from a $19 million, 20-year environmental cleanup of the plant that was completed last year.

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