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The Bush administration announced late Monday that it planned to bring a case before the World Trade Organization charging the 25-nation European Union with providing illegal subsidies to Airbus, the major competitor to Boeing Co., the leading US plane manufacturer. The action, which followed an offer from the EU on Friday to resolve the dispute, triggered a competing trade case by the EU accusing the US government of illegally subsidizing Boeing. In January, both sides had agreed to put WTO cases they had filed against each other in the fall on hold. However, those talks went nowhere. The US side is concerned about the potential subsidies that could be provided to Airbus for development of the A350, which is seen as a direct competitor to Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner in the market for mid-size, long-distance jets.

Spanish-Argentine oil and energy company Repsol YPF said Tuesday that it will spend more than $26.1 billion as part of a five-year global investment plan, with particular emphasis on exploration and production. The company said more than half of that will go specifically to exploration and production under its 2005-09 strategic plan. The company, which focuses on markets in Argentina, Brazil, and Bolivia, is expanding in Algeria, Venezuela, the Trinidad and Tobago, the US, Iran, and West Africa.

Germany's second-biggest bank, HVB Group, and Italy's Unicredito Italiano SpA confirmed Monday they were in talks about a possible merger, but cautioned that there was "considerable uncertainty" over any deal. Analysts contend that a potential $20 billion cross-border merger would give the combined company unprecedented access to customers in eastern Europe. Last year, Spain's Santander Central Hispano SA bought Abbey National PLC, Britain's sixth-biggest bank, in a $17.8 billion crossborder acquisition.

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Journalists and technicians of three BBC unions were to vote Tuesday on a deal worked out during government-backed negotiations that staved off a planned 48-hour strike to protest 4,000 planned layoffs. The corporation, which has a workforce of around 28,000, is hoping the cuts will help it save some $640 million. Unions claim the cuts will hurt the quality of the BBC's programs. The unions, which last week carried out a 24-hour strike, said they could strike again if the proposal is rejected.

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