Business & Finance

Maytag Corp. agreed late Friday to a $1.7 billion offer from stronger rival Whirlpool, turning its back on a previously agreed-to buyout by a consortium led by Ripplewood Holdings and Triton Acquisition Holding Co. But the latter still have until the end of this week to walk away from the deal or announce an increase in their bid. As part of the deal, Whirlpool agreed to pay the $40 million fee Maytag will owe to cancel the Ripplewood-Triton buyout. If the merger wins regulatory approval, Whirlpool will surpass Sweden's Electrolux as the No. 1 seller of washers, driers, refrigerators, and ovens.

Delta Air Lines and General Electric were not commenting on published reports that they've been discussing a financial aid package that would help the carrier remain in business if it files for bankruptcy. Delta staved off such a filing last year by cutting $1 billion from its operating expenses. But the soaring price of fuel added $655 million to its costs in the first half of 2005, and each one-cent per gallon increase adds another $25 million, according to the company's own documents.

Up to 80 percent of British Airways flights were back in service over the weekend after a wildcat strike by unionized employees stranded an estimated 70,000 passengers - the fourth summer in a row that the carrier's operations have been disrupted by labor disputes. BA said it does not yet know the cost of the walkout, but analysts estimated it at $18 million a day. The strike erupted when baggage handlers and other ground-crew staffers walked off the job in support of 800 employees who'd been fired by BA's food-service contractor. A spokesman for the carrier conceded that many angry passengers switched to such rivals as American Airlines, Lufthansa, Virgin Atlantic, and Air France/KLM.

The union representing 25,000 employees of Qwest Communications International said its members should "continue to work until further notice" even though their contract expired Saturday night and negotiations with the company broke down at dawn Sunday, The Denver Post reported. Qwest and the Communications Workers of America were deadlocked on the issues of pay increases and healthcare benefits. The company has proposed a wage increase but wants to offset that by obliging employees and many retirees to pay a greater share of their own health insurance premiums. The company is negotiating separately with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers on a new contract.

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