Business & Finance

Ford Motor Co. said it will close about one-third of its regional sales offices - in Boston, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Seattle - and an unspecified number of regional customer-service offices. The auto-maker said the former are involved in selling vehicles to 4,000 US dealerships and in handling local marketing. It did not indicate how many jobs will be affected but has said it wants to cut at least 1,750 more before the end of the year.

Plastech Engineered Products Inc., the largest woman-owned company in Michigan, offered to buy bankrupt rival auto parts supplier Collins & Aikman Corp. for $1 billion. Plastech founder/chief executive Julie Brown said her company hopes to bring its "competencies" to and to maximize the value of Collins & Aikman for creditors. Plastech, based in Dearborn, makes interior door panels, mud flaps, and other vehicle components. Collins & Aikman, of nearby Troy, Mich., manufactures flooring, fabric, and instrument panels for US and Japanese auto-makers.

In a deal valued at $1.6 billion, communications service giant Alltel Corp. agreed to sell its Austrian subsidiary, Tele.ring, to Germany's Deutsche Telekom. The latter said the acquisition will be folded into its Austrian unit, T- Mobile Austria, pending approval by European Union regulators. Anticipation of the buyout and the possibility that it would lead to job cuts caused Tele.ring's unionized employees to threaten a strike last week, but they later backed down. Alltel is based in Little Rock, Ark.

In a year that has been rife with banking mergers, BNP Paribas of France sought to deny growing speculation that it intends to acquire Germany's Commerzbank for $41.60 a share. Still, the talk was credited with a 6 percent rise in the price of Commerzbank stock on the Frankfurt exchange Wednesday, and analysts said they expected such rumors to continue. A Commerzbank spokesman said his company does not comment on "market speculation."

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