Business & Finance

General Motors is expected to end zero-percent financing on new vehicles next month, the Detroit News and Financial Times reported. GM was the first of the "Big Three" automakers to offer interest-free loans, although the reports said it is not clear how much they have buoyed car and truck sales. GM is to unveil the sales incentives it will offer for 2003 models after Labor Day. Rivals Ford and DaimlerChrysler have extended their zero-percent programs on 2002 models through the end of September.

Enron's creditors sued to obtain $12 million that the energy trader's former finance chief, Michael Kopper, forfeited under a plea deal with federal prosecutors. A bankruptcy court judge in New York ordered the funds frozen temporarily, with a hearing set for today. Kopper agreed to turn over the money to the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department. Enron's creditors contend that since he admitted to defrauding the company, they are entitled to the settlement.

Walt Disney Co. acknowledged that its credit rating was lowered by Fitch Inc. Citing added debt from last year's $5.2 billion acquisition of the Fox Family cable-TV business and flagging attendance at Disney theme parks, Fitch reduced the entertainment giant's rating Monday from A-minus to BBB-plus, its third-lowest investment grade. The move may result in a slight rise in the rates Disney pays on its $14 billion debt, analysts said.

Samsung Electronics, which trails US rivals Intel and Texas Instruments in specialized nonmemory chip sales, said it will invest $3.6 billion over the next five years to try to overtake them. Much of the effort is expected to focus on research and development, with the planned hiring of 3,000 more employees. The chips, used in cameras, optical disks, smart cards, and other applications, are believed to have greater long-term market potential than memory chips.

The world's largest maker of paper products, Stora Enso Oyj, announced it will close four plants in the US, cutting 500 jobs. The Helsinki, Finland-based company also said it will write off more than $1.1 billion from the value of assets acquired in the purchase two years ago of Consolidated Papers of Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., for $5.9 billion.

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