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UNITED PARCEL SERVICE TO RAISE RATES NEXT YEAR

United Parcel Service will raise most U.S. rates next year, the delivery company said Tuesday.

The new rates, effective Feb. 7, will increase most domestic air express services by 3.3 percent; rates for standard ground commercial shipments in the United States by 3.6 percent, and ground service to residential addresses will be $1 more than the new commercial ground rates. The current residential charge is 80 cents per package.

The company, rebounding from a crippling 15-day strike last August by Teamsters workers, said there would be no increases in international rates. International service guarantees will be enhanced.

Lukens board likes Allegheny offer

COATESVILLE, Pa., (AP) -- Directors of Lukens Inc. decided Tuesday that a buyout offer from Allegheny Teledyne Inc. is superior to one they have with Bethlehem Steel Corp.

Bethlehem agreed Dec. 15 to pay $25 a share in cash and stock for Lukens, for a deal worth about $400 million.

Allegheny Teledyne, a Pittsburgh-based specialty steelmaker, made an unsolicited bid Dec. 22 of $28 in cash for each share of Lukens stock, a total of some $465 million.

Bethlehem said it is aware of the action by the Lukens board and is considering its alternatives.

Court expedites Microsoft case

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A federal appeals court on Tuesday ordered expedited consideration for Microsoft's appeal of an injunction restricting distribution of the company's browser program.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ordered written motions and replies to be submitted by March 9. No date for oral argument was set.

In Redmond, Wash., where Microsoft is based, spokesman Mark Murray said the company was encouraged by the ruling.

The Justice Department has sued Microsoft, contending the computer software firm violated a 1995 order by unfairly leveraging its market dominance in Windows software to gain market share in the Internet browser market.

On Dec. 11, U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson ordered Microsoft to quit requiring manufacturers to distribute the Explorer browser program as a condition of installing Windows on personal computers.

Disney parks have boom year

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- If you built it they may come, but if you market it big-time they'll come in droves.

That was the lesson this year at Disney Co., owner of the four best-attended theme parks in the United States.

The most-visited site in the nation in 1997 was the Magic Kingdom, where a record 17 million people visited the park during its 25th anniversary celebration. The Orlando park's turnstiles let in 3.1 million more people than in 1996, an increase of 23 percent over the 1996 tally.

Worldwide, the Magic Kingdom lost out to another sister park, Tokyo Disneyland, which had 17.3 million visitors.

Alcoa drops plan to buy mill

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Citing opposition from the Department of Justice, the Aluminum Company of America announced Tuesday it is dropping plans to buy an aluminum mill in Alabama from Reynolds Metals Co.

The department's Antitrust Division filed a lawsuit Monday seeking to block Alcoa's purchase of the rolling mill in Muscle Shoals, Ala.

It argued that because Alcoa planned to shut the complex down, the $250 million deal would hurt consumers.

In other business news

Billionaire financier George Soros blames the abandonment of fixed exchange rates in Asia for the region's financial crises and says a new institution is needed to guarantee international loans.

Raytheon Co.'s Standard Missile unit shouldn't produce missiles for the U.S. Navy under a contract worth $568 million until more testing is done on the weapons, according to a report by the General Accounting Office, the Boston Herald reported today.

Procter & Gamble Co., the maker of Pampers and Luvs disposable diapers, has won patent infringement claims against Paragon Trade Brands Inc., a rival that makes private-label diapers. At issue were patents for improving the fit and comfort of disposable diapers.

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