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The company with the apparent inside track to buy the futures trading business of bankrupt Refco Inc. tightened the screws Friday by threatening to withdraw unless a federal court OK's the sale by Nov. 11. J.C. Flowers & Co., a New York private equity firm, has offered $768.4 million for Refco's futures trading business, an amount that the brokerage giant is said to believe is preferable to the $790 million offered by rival Interactive Brokers Group LLC, even though the latter's bid is larger. But the financial reporting service Bloomberg.com said Flowers isn't willing to go forward unless the sale is expedited quickly and it receives a breakup fee in the event the bankruptcy court awards the Refco unit to another buyer. Refco's Oct. 10 bankruptcy filing is the 14th largest in US history.

On live TV Monday, the largest steel mill in Ukraine is to be auctioned off, with the bidding expected to go as high as $3.5 billion. The sale of the Kryvorizhstal mill is seen as crucial to President Viktor Yushchenko's goal of closing a major gap in the nation's budget. Parliament has voted twice to ask Yushchenko to call off the auction, but both resolutions are nonbinding and he has ignored them. Analysts have said the bidding may well come down to Mittal Steel of the Netherlands and Arcelor Corp. of Luxembourg, the industry's two largest companies.

Engineering and maintenance employees of Qantas, the Australian airline, were warned that the company may transfer "significant" areas of their work overseas if they don't agree to a cost-cutting program. The carrier is aiming to trim $2.3 billion in operating expenses by 2008 and already has eliminated 60 maintenance jobs from its Sydney base. Another 3,250 jobs could go if it followed through on the threat, the Australian newspaper reported.

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Weyerhaeuser Co., the forest products giant, will close a sawmill and a specialty pulp plant in Grays Harbor County, Wash., one week before Christmas, the company said Friday. The move will leave 342 employees without jobs. Chief executive Steve Rogel cited "weakening markets and tightening economics" as the reasons for the move, calling the mills obsolete and no longer competitive.

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