Business & Finance

Bayer, one of the world's leading chemicals conglomerates, has been offered $20 billion for its pharmaceuticals business by Swiss rival Roche Holding AG, reports said. Both companies declined comment, but earlier this month a senior Bayer executive said he had offers for the drugs division from two bidders he wouldn't identify. Last year, Roche was rejected in an attempt to buy Bayer's pharmaceuticals business.

Wireless phone operator Nextel Communications said it would seek to cut its heavy debt load by retiring $857 million in senior notes issued to its wholly owned subsidiary, Nextel International. In return, Nextel said bondholders would receive 21.6 million shares of its common stock, allowing it to record a huge third-quarter gain because of the "substantial" discount of the exchange relative to the book value of senior notes.

In layoff news:

• Deere & Co. said it will cut 1,975 more jobs, shed its Homelite consumer-products business, and cut back its construction and forestry division. The reductions by the Moline, Ill.-based farm-implement maker come on top of 1,250 layoffs announced in June.

• Weirton Steel plans to cut 372 maintenance and production jobs, and 74 technical and clerical positions. Morgantown, W.Va.-based Weirton cut 70 management jobs in March.

• Honeywell International will cut 690 workers and close two circuit-board plants by Oct. 31, according to documents filed in Minnesota. Earlier this year, the company said it would lay off 6,500 workers because of a downturn in the circuit-board industry. It was not immediately clear whether the newly announced layoffs are in addition to that number.

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