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FEDERAL REGULATORS PROBE BRAKING ON GM'S OLDER SUVS

A federal safety agency is investigating some older model sport utility vehicles built by General Motors Corp. after complaints their batteries leak, damaging the braking system.

There are more than 700,000 of the Suburban, Tahoe and Yukon SUVs on the road from the 1995 through 1997 model years, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Friday in its monthly auto defects report.

Sixteen motorists have complained to the agency that their batteries leaked, damaging the braking system, including the right front brake line in some cases, the report said.

Investigators are looking at whether more complaints have been received by the automaker and whether the alleged problem increases the risk of a crash from a braking problem or can cause some SUVs to lose power, potentially shutting down in traffic.

GM spokesman Greg Martin said the company was cooperating with the agency's evaluation. "This does not mean a problem exists or any action will be required," Martin said.

NHTSA opens any safety investigation with a preliminary inquiry in which the government and manufacturer exchange paperwork that includes any complaints, as in the GM case.

The investigation then could be upgraded to an engineering analysis, during which engineers study parts to see if they are defective. An investigation eventually can lead to a recall, but many are dropped.

Pratt & Whitney cuts 1,700 jobs

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Faced with a shrinking demand for jet engines, Pratt & Whitney officials are cutting 1,700 more jobs by the end of the year, mostly from the company's Connecticut manufacturing plants.

The cuts announced Friday are in addition to the approximately 3,500 jobs the company has been eliminating since it started a major restructuring and consolidation effort in 1998.

Pratt spokesman Mark Sullivan blamed a dramatic drop-off in jet engine sales during the past three years as the major reason for the downsizing. The company will deliver less than 600 engines in 2000, compared to 800 in 1998. Some of the work load will be moved to overseas operations.

About 1,500 cuts will come from the hourly work force, mostly line workers in the company's East Hartford and North Haven plants, Sullivan said. The remaining 200 cuts will come from salaried workers who support those line operations, he said.

"In Georgia and Maine, where we also have manufacturing facilities, the impact will be minimal," he said.

Jim Parent, a chief spokesman for the Machinists Union, was surprised by the number of new cuts, and had not expected that 400 positions would be moved overseas.

"This announcement stinks," Parent said. "We knew we had a volume problem, but the worst part is that they're going to move some of the work to Taiwan, China, Korea, Japan, Norway and Israel."

Planet Hollywood out of bankruptcy

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- A federal judge on Friday approved Planet Hollywood International Inc.'s bankruptcy plan, three months after the company sought protection from creditors during a reorganization.

Founder Robert Earl will keep his job as the company's CEO under an order that was signed by U.S. District Chief Judge Joseph Farnan Jr. in Wilmington, Del., where the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The approval will allow Planet Hollywood to operate with court protection while it restructures and sheds debt that it cannot repay, without totally liquidating the business.

Buffalo stock index declines in week

Buffalo stocks fell this week, led by Royal Ahold NV, Praxair Inc. and Moog Inc.

The Buffalo Bloomberg Stock Index fell 5.19, or 2.7 percent, to 184.87 this week. The employee-weighted list of 55 companies with operations in the region set a 52-week closing high of 214.75 on July 6 and a low of 177.62 on Oct. 15.

Netherlands-based Royal Ahold, which owns Tops Markets, fell 2 1 5/1 6 to 25 5/8 . Shares have lost 37 percent of their value in the last year.

Praxair, a Danbury, Conn.-based producer of specialty gases, dropped 6 9/1 6 to 46 7/8 .

Elma-based Moog, a maker of aerospace parts, lost 1 9/1 6 to 24 5/8 .

Thirty-three stocks fell, 19 rose and three were unchanged. This week's risers included East Aurora-based Acme Electric Corp. The maker of power-conversion equipment added 1/2 to 6 1/8 .

Astronics Corp., a Buffalo-based maker of lighting products and custom packaging, gained 1 5/8 to 11 1 3/1 6.

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