Business & Finance

As expected, United Airlines filed for a $1.8 billion loan from the fund established by Congress after Sept. 11 to prop up financially ailing carriers. The move makes United the fourth, and largest, airline to seek help from the $10 billion pool supervised by the Air Transportation Stabilization Board, after America West, American Trans-Air, and – earlier this month – US Airways. Analysts said approval of United's request is far from assured, however, because the carrier has an estimated $2.6 billion in cash on hand, still is able to borrow money from commercial lenders, and has yet to win definitive wage concessions from its unionized employees. Two United jets were among those hijacked Sept. 11 by Al Qaeda terrorists.

The contest for TRW Inc.'s aerospace business was joined by defense contractors General Dynamics and Raytheon and by BAE Systems PLC of Britain, The Wall Street Journal reported. The value of their respective offers was not indicated. Citing sources familiar with the matter, the newspaper said the new entries would ratchet up pressure on long-standing bidder Northrop Grumman Corp. to hike its offer or risk losing TRW's military assets. Northrop Grumman, which began its unsolicited pursuit of TRW in February, has raised its offer in stages to just under $7 billion, only to be rejected each time. On Monday, Northrop Grumman announced it was extending the offer by one more week.

Government-owned Sydney Airport, the largest and busiest in Australia and the hub of national carrier Qantas, was leased to a consortium of investors for 99 years for $3.1 billion. It is the last of the nation's major airports to be privatized.

In layoff news:

• By the end of 2004, the Bank of China Ltd. will cut 2,000 jobs and close up to 36 branches, the Hong Kong Chinese-language newspaper Ming Pao reported.

• AGCO Corp., the world's third-largest maker of farming machinery, said it will close its plant in Coventry, England, by next June, eliminating 900 jobs. Duluth, Ga.-based AGCO will shift the operation to France to cut costs.

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