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BUSINESS TODAY

Verizon to cut work force by 10,000 equivalent jobs

NEW YORK (Bloomberg) -- Verizon Communications, the biggest U.S. local-phone company, plans to cut an unspecified number of jobs, limit overtime and fire contractors this year to reduce costs, President Lawrence Babbio said.

The cuts are equivalent to the amount of hours 10,000 employees would work, spokesman David Frail said. That's 5 percent of the 200,000 employees in its main unit, which offers calling and Internet services, Babbio said.

Verizon would achieve 40 percent of the cuts by firing contractors and reducing overtime. Most of the rest would come through attrition, with selective layoffs, the company said. It declined to be more specific.

Retailers report boost in sales

NEW YORK (Bloomberg) -- U.S. retailers' sales at stores open at least a year rose in January as shoppers scooped up clothing, electronics, housewares and other items at post-holiday discount prices.

Wal-Mart Stores, the world's largest merchant, said so-called same-store sales jumped 6 percent from January 2000. Limited Inc. had a 5 percent increase, while department-store chain Dillard's Inc. reported a 3 percent gain.

Sears, Roebuck & Co. had a 2.6 percent increase in sales and Target Corp. said January sales rose 2.1 percent. Gap Inc. said January same-store sales dropped 12 percent and sales declined 14 percent at AnnTaylor Stores.

FreeMarkets buys Adexa

PITTSBURGH (Bloomberg) -- FreeMarkets Inc., which operates online auctions for business products, agreed to buy closely held Adexa Inc. for about $340 million in stock to gain software that helps companies manage their supply chains.

FreeMarkets will exchange 17.25 million shares and options for all of the outstanding shares and options of Adexa, the Pittsburgh-based company said in a statement.

Radio One acquires rival

LANHAM, Md. (Bloomberg) -- Radio One, the largest U.S. radio broadcaster serving black listeners, agreed to buy closely held rival Blue Chip Broadcasting for about $190 million in cash, stock and debt to expand in urban markets.

On Monday, the company said it completed the $52.5 million purchase of a radio station in Dallas. Including that transaction, it now owns 63 stations in 22 of the largest markets.

Consumers borrowing less

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Consumers, less confident about the nation's economy, tightened their belts in December, borrowing money at the slowest pace in more than a year.

Consumer credit increased by a seasonally adjusted $3 billion in December, or a 2.4 percent annual rate, the Federal Reserve reported Wednesday. That was down from a breakneck 11.1 percent rate in November.

Demand for revolving credit, such as that used for credit cards, rose by almost $2 billion, or at a 3.6 percent rate in December, down from $6 billion and a 11 percent rate in November.

Demand for nonrevolving credit, such as loans for new cars, vacations and other big-ticket items, rose by $1 billion, at an annual rate of 1.5 percent in December. That was down from $7.9 billion and a 11.1 percent rate the month before.

Fleming to supply Kmart

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BridgeNews) Fleming Cos., the No. 2 wholesale food distributor and the supplier of Jubilee supermarkets, said Wednesday it will become the exclusive grocery supplier for Kmart Corp. in a deal that could generate as much as $6.5 billion in annual revenues.

The alliance involves meat, dairy, frozen food and other groceries worth $4.5 billion in sales each year for Fleming. Negotiations regarding health and beauty products could raise that value by another $2 billion.

In other business news

The number of Americans filing new claims for state unemployment insurance climbed by 15,000 to a seasonally adjusted 361,000 for the week ending Feb. 3, the highest level since Dec. 30.

News Corp. and General Motors Corp. tentatively agreed on a plan that would combine GM's Hughes Electronics Corp. and News Corp.'s Sky Global Networks satellite business in a company that would be worth $60 billion to $70 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

Corning Inc., the No. 1 maker of fiber-optic cables, said it plans to invest about $400 million to build an optical-fiber plant in Oklahoma City that will employ several hundred people.

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. said President Peter R. Dolan, 45, will take over as chief executive of the pharmaceuticals giant in May.

Tyco International Ltd., the conglomerate that owns Buffalo's Graphic Controls Corp. and is buying Scott Technologies, raised $2.25 billion in an overnight convertible bond sale Wednesday, the biggest of its kind so far this year. The sale, managed by Credit Suisse First Boston, will be used to repay commercial paper, or short-term IOUs.

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