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Ford, the world's second-largest automaker, warned it could implement further austerity measures if the massive restructuring plan announced five months ago fails to meet its target. In an interview with the Financial Times, chairman William Ford said the company is considering a "Plan B," to be applied selectively, that would include new plant closings and additional job cuts. Ford's $9 billion overhaul plan, detailed Jan. 11, calls for the closure or partial shutdown of five assembly plants, layoffs of 35,000 workers, the phaseout of the Lincoln Continental, Mercury Cougar, and other models, plus other moves. Still, the automaker is estimating a net loss of $800 million in the year's first quarter.

Struggling Qwest Communications International has extended the deadline for bidding on its lucrative telephone directory business to July 12, reports said. Binding offers originally were due yesterday. According to sources familiar with the situation, Qwest wants to allow prospective buyers more time to develop proposals to acquire the unit piecemeal – a strategy that would give the heavily indebted company a much-needed infusion of immediate cash. Denver-based Qwest owes creditors more than $25 billion. Bidding for the phone-book business already has topped $8 billion.

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Boeing Co. and representatives of its 26,000 unionized machinists are to open negotiations today on a new contract to try to avert a strike before the current pact expires Sept. 1. But analysts said the union's goal of job security and more generous pensions could be difficult to achieve, with the aerospace giant trying to cut costs so it can maintain market share against its top competitor, Europe's Airbus Industrie. Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Boeing has lowered aircraft production by half and announced 28,300 layoffs. Contract talks with 18,000 unionized engineers also are due later this year.


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