Business & Finance

Qwest Communications was surveying stockholders in MCI to determine whether it should attempt a hostile takeover of the cellphone service provider, The Denver Post reported. Citing sources close to the situation, the newspaper said that chairman Richard Notebaert had refused a request to raise Qwest's offer for MCI one more time - from $8.9 billion to $9.75 billion - before the latter recommitted itself to a merger with rival Verizon earlier this week. That decision appeared to leave Qwest with only one choice if it's determined to acquire MCI: the means by which to pursue an unfriendly approach. Meanwhile, Verizon also was focusing on MCI's shareholders - in particular by filing a timetable with the Securities and Exchange Commission for them to ratify its $7.5 billion offer, the financial news service reported. It said that vote could come within days. Shareholders controlling at least 27 percent of MCI stock are believed to oppose Verizon's offer, meaning that it may have to be raised, analysts told The Denver Post.

United Airlines said it will close its reservations call center in the Seattle suburb of Kent, Wash., which employs 400 people, on June 4. United's parent, UAL Corp., has been in bankruptcy protection since December 2002, and the carrier has been struggling to offset high fuel prices. Employees at the Kent facility will be given the option of a severance package or transfers to other call centers in Chicago, Honolulu, Detroit, or Washington, D.C.

Production was halted at MG Rover's assembly plant in Birmingham, England, Thursday, but the automaker sought to assure employees and the public that the situation was temporary and due to a shortage of parts. The plant employs 6,000 people and builds Rover's 25, 45, and 75 models and MG sports cars, whose sales have been disappointing in recent years. The BBC reported that makers of parts had stopped supplying the plant because of uncertainty as MG Rover negotiates a $1.9 billion joint venture with China's Shanghai Automotive Industries Corp. Those talks, in turn, appeared to hinge on whether MG Rover is granted a bridging loan from the British government worth one-tenth that amount, The Times (London) reported.

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