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Little-known telephone service provider IDT Corp. is escalating the long-distance rate price war, undercutting the industry's giants with charges as low as 3.5 cents per minute.

The company Wednesday announced its new rate for domestic long-distance calls: 5 cents per minute any time, plus a $3.95 monthly fee. For customers who also sign up for IDT's dial-up Internet service, the 10-year-old company plans to offer rates as low as 3.5 cents per minute.

The move comes two days after AT&T Corp., which has about 55 percent of the $41 billion annual market for consumer long-distance calls, cut its rates to 7 cents a minute for calls made any time; customers also must pay a monthly $5.95 fee.

Sprint charges the same monthly fee, for rates of 5 cents a minute at night and 10 cents other times. MCI WorldCom offers weekend and weekday nighttime rates of 5 cents a minute, with daytime fees as high as 10 cents a minute, plus a monthly fee of $4.95.

6 million Budweiser bottles recalled
MADRID, Spain (AP) -- Nearly six million bottles of Budweiser beer are being withdrawn from sale in 12 European countries because the bottles may break when opened, the company said Thursday.

All twist-off top beer bottles in Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Sweden, Cyprus, Malta, Belgium, Netherlands, Latvia, Germany, and Switzerland were recalled, as well as many bottles in France, the company said. The recall began Wednesday.

The 5.8 million bottles recalled were manufactured in Spain or Portugal, and filled at the company's Spanish brewery. Budweiser bottles sold in the United Sates are not affected.

Frontier accepts sweetened bid
ROCHESTER (Bloomberg) -- Frontier Corp. accepted a sweetened $10.2 billion acquisition offer from Global Crossing Ltd., clearing a challenge that threatened to jeopardize the proposed purchase.

Under the new offer, Global would swap 2.05 shares of its stock for each Frontier share, or $48.18 each. That's about a 10 percent more than Frontier shareholders would receive under the earlier purchase agreement.

Ford faces fine for explosion
DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) -- Ford Motor Co. will be fined at least $1 million and has agreed to institute a series of safety improvements to answer at least a dozen workplace violations cited in connection with a February explosion that killed six workers.

The Michigan Occupational and Safety Administration today was expected to release a synopsis detailing fines, safety violations and specific safety changes that Ford has agreed to make.

The Feb. 1 explosion in the powerhouse at the Rouge complex also injured 14 workers.

Chesapeake joins box venture
RICHMOND, Va. (Bloomberg) -- Georgia-Pacific Group, the No. 2 U.S. paper producer, and Chesapeake Corp. said Wednesday they plan to combine their colored-box businesses to reduce costs and offer more packaging products.

The joint venture is expected to have annual sales of about $200 million, said Chesapeake, which has a brown-box plant in Buffalo.

In other business news . . .
John Hancock has taken one more step in its bid to go public. The John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Co.'s board of directors has adopted a plan to distribute the company's value to policyholders in the form of stock, cash or policy credits.

Boeing machinists went to work today with a freshly approved contract that union members say signals a new era of mutual respect between company management and hourly workers. The pact won 86 percent approval Wednesday night, the highest ever for a Boeing contract.

AlliedSignal Inc., the world's biggest maker of flight-safety systems that has a research center in Buffalo, and Honeywell Inc. said Wednesday their shareholders approved AlliedSignal's proposed $15.3 billion purchase of Honeywell, though the acquisition still faces regulatory roadblocks.

Equitable Cos., the largest publicly traded U.S. life insurer by assets, will change its name to Axa Financial Inc. on Friday as the 140-year-old company seeks to highlight the broader range of services it now offers.

The Labor Department reported today that 289,000 Americans filed new claims for jobless benefits for the week ending Aug. 28, up by 4,000 from the previous week. That was the highest since Aug. 14, when claims matched last week's level.

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