Business & Finance

Qwest Communications tried another tack to acquire MCI Inc for $8 billion in cash and stock, despite the latter's acceptance of a lower $6.7 billion bid to merge with Verizon. While not increasing its original offer substantially, Qwest added a mechanism to protect its value and accelerate cash payments to MCI shareholders. Under stockholder pressure, MCI said it would "conduct a thorough review" of Qwest's revised offer to satisfy its "fiduciary duty." MCI would be liable for a $200 million breakup fee if it backs out of the deal with Verizon.

The buyer of International Steel Group Inc. warned that it intends "to focus on cost" once the deal is complete and may cut as many as 8,000 jobs a year between now and 2010. Mittal Steel Co. did not indicate where the layoffs would come, but a Steelworkers Union spokesman said late last week he didn't expect any in the US because of contractual guarantees and the high productivity of ISG's mills. Mittal, based in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, operates steelworks or coal and ore mines in 14 countries. It agreed to buy ISG of Richfield, Ohio, last year for $4.5 billion. The deal is expected to close next month.

Duke Energy Corp. said it will use the cash from the sale of its stake in natural-gas processing and pipeline units to buy back about $2.5 billion of its own stock. The Charlotte, N.C., company has been selling assets to shore up its balance sheet.

Package-delivery giant United Parcel Service announced an overhaul of its heavy air freight operations, closing a sorting hub in Dayton, Ohio, and expanding a facility in Louisville, Ky. The Dayton operation, which UPS has been using only since Dec. 20, is not a good fit for its network, a spokesman said. The closure, slated to be completed by mid-2006, will result in 1,400 layoffs. Meanwhile, UPS said it will expand its Louisville hub by 700,000 square feet and add 720 full- or part-time jobs.

Brown-Forman Corp., a leading distiller of alcoholic beverages is offering its Lenox subsidiary for sale, the Louisville (Ky.) Courier-Journal reported Friday. Lenox markets fine china, crystal, giftware, and collectables under its own brand as well as Dansk, Gorham, Kirk Stieff, and Brooks & Bentley. The report said Brown-Forman also would consider a spinoff of Lenox or a joint venture.

A division of Siemens, the engineering conglomerate, said it will close a plant in suburban Atlanta beginning in early summer and move the operations to Juarez, Mexico, and El Paso, Texas. The affected plant, in Tucker, Ga., builds meter-reading equipment and employs 448 people.

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