Business & Finance

Troubled FirstEnergy Corp. sought approval for a $750 million common-stock issue in a filing Wednesday with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The nation's fourth-largest investor-owned utility is $15 billion in debt and is under scrutiny for its role in the Aug. 14 power blackout affecting much of the Northeast, Midwest, and parts of Canada. FirstEnergy is based in Akron, Ohio, and operates 16 power plants serving customers from Ohio to New Jersey.

Announcing a new step in its corporate overhaul, United Air Lines said it will form a marketing alliance with Air China, beginning Oct. 31. The code-sharing arrangement allows United to add five more destinations to the Chinese cities it already serves, while Air China gains access to 14 US cities. Frequent-flier programs on the two carriers will become interchangeable. United, still trying to emerge from bankruptcy, must show a profit by Oct. 31 or risk losing its financing. Air China, that nation's flag carrier, experienced a sharp drop in passenger traffic because of the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) epidemic earlier this year and, as a result, has postponed a planned initial public offering of its stock.

The maker of Panasonic appliances announced 1,100 job cuts and the shifting of a major area of its operations from Japan to China. In the process, Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. said it will close two Japanese plants that build motors and will create two new companies to oversee production in China by the end of its 2004 fiscal year. Matsushita said the move was being made because most of its customers already have relocated to China. The company's motors also power industrial equipment.

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