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The nation's largest local phone service provider, Ameritech, should have to respond to service complaints at a public forum in about a month, regulators from five Midwest states urged Friday. Customers have accused the company of inordinate delays in repairs and of less-than-satisfactory treatment by company representatives, consumer group Citizens Utility Board has said. Service complaints have increased, an Ohio official maintained, since the company was acquired by San Antonio-based SBC Communications last year. The company's territory includes Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

Unilever said it will close the Chicago factory where it makes shampoo and skin-care products, eliminating 600 jobs. Friday's announcement came four years after the London conglomerate bought Chicago-based Helene Curtis and said it intended to maintain the manufacturing facility there. Production will be moved to plants in Connecticut, Missouri, and North Carolina. A company executive said the move was part of an effort to eliminate 25,000 jobs and close 100 production sites around the world.

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The second-largest US cement producer, Southdown Inc., agreed to be acquired by expansion-minded Mexican rival Cemex. Houston-based Southdown operates 12 plants; its strongest markets are California and Florida. But analysts said Cemex's immediate 4.4 percent drop in its share price was proof that the $2.8 billion it will pay for Southdown is alarming to investors even as it pursues another takeover target, the Portuguese cement company Simpor.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society