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FORD BUYS REMAINING STAKE IN HERTZ FOR $597 MILLION

Ford Motor Co., the world's No. 2 automaker, agreed to buy the remaining 18.5 percent of No. 1 car-rental company Hertz Corp. it doesn't already own for about $597 million.

Ford will pay Hertz $30 for each Class A share of Hertz, 24 percent more than Hertz's closing price Wednesday. The stake represents about 19.9 million shares, according to Ford spokeswoman Karen Hampton.

In 1987, Ford bought a stake in Hertz, then owned by UAL Corp.'s predecessor, Allegis Corp., and became sole owner in 1994. In addition to cars, Hertz rents industrial and construction equipment through its Hertz Equipment Rental Corp. subsidiary.

Hertz has about a 30 percent share of the rental markets in airports.

Ford fell 69 cents to $25.06 Wednesday. Hertz fell 25 cents to $24.25.

Senate panel opposes air deal

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A Senate committee concluded Wednesday that the proposed merger between United Airlines and US Airways could leave consumers with fewer travel options, higher fares and lowered service.

The Commerce Committee approved by voice vote a nonbinding resolution opposing the deal. Congress has no formal role in federal regulators' review of the merger, but concerns expressed there could have some influence on the process.

M&T sets Oct. 5 for stock split

M&T Bank Corp.'s first stock split since 1987 is planned for Oct. 5, the bank announced Wednesday.

M&T's shareholders met Tuesday to approve the bank's merger with Keystone Financial of Harrisburg, Pa. The deal giving Buffalo's bank a leading market share in most parts of central Pennsylvania is expected to close Oct. 6.

Keystone shareholders have the option of receiving one-half of a post-split share of M&T stock or $21.50 cash. At least 35 percent of all Keystone shares must be swapped for cash.

The stock split, payable to shareholders of record on Sept. 29, will increase the amount of M&T's outstanding shares from 7.6 million to 76 million, reducing the share price correspondingly. Using Wednesday's closing price of $510 as an example, the stock would drop to $51 a share after the split, potentially making M&T attractive to a wider audience of investors.

Saturn workers offered buyouts

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Battered by sluggish sales, Saturn Corp. is offering incentives of up to $25,000 to employees at its Spring Hill plant to leave in an effort to trim expenses until production is increased late next year.

The company is offering incentives to United Auto Workers members in Spring Hill to either retire early, quit, take an unpaid leave of absence or agree to sharing a job with another employee.

Saturn spokesman Bill Betts said the company expects about 5 percent to 7 percent of the 6,000 UAW workers employed there -- about 400 -- to take advantage of the offer.

IBM adds 400 jobs in Endicott

ENDICOTT (AP) -- By spring IBM Corp. will add about 400 manufacturing jobs, and as many as 600 by the end of next year.

The announcement from company officials represents the first significant permanent hiring in manufacturing at IBM-Endicott in more than a decade.

The company trimmed employment at the Broome County site from its mid-1980s peak of nearly 12,000 to about 5,500, where it's been holding steady since about 1995. The cutbacks were part of a companywide effort to trim costs and become more competitive.

IBM has hired more than 200 engineers in Endicott, about 8 miles west of Binghamton, but until recently the company had been filling in manufacturing needs with temporary help when necessary.

Cigarette maker to cut jobs

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Brown & Williamson Tobacco Co. announced a cost-cutting plan Wednesday that will include an undetermined number of job cuts, amid slipping sales of its Kool, Lucky Strike Carlton and other cigarette brands.

Brown & Williamson, the third-largest manufacturer of tobacco products, said Wednesday it has lost more than 3 percent of the tobacco market share since a 1998 settlement with the states' attorneys general.

It is unclear how many of the company's 6,000 jobs would be lost, spokesman Mark Smith said.

In other business news

The number of Americans filing unemployment applications declined to a seasonally adjusted 308,000 for the week ending Sept. 16, down by 18,000 from the previous week, the Labor Department said today.

Galey & Lord Inc., a fabric maker for clothing, said it will close two plants in North Carolina and Georgia, cutting about 1,340 employees, or about 13 percent of its work force, to reduce costs.

A contract governing 7,200 workers at seven Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. plants went into effect Wednesday after workers at an Indiana plant voted overwhelmingly for the three-year deal with the embattled tire maker.

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