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GM unveils plans to cut $11 billion in debt

DETROIT --- General Motors Co. moved to strengthen its finances ahead of an initial public stock sale, announcing plans on Thursday to cut debt and pension obligations by $11 billion.

The $11 billion reduction includes paying back $2.1 billion owed to U.S. taxpayers, as well as paying $2.8 billion to a United Auto Workers health care trust. The company also plans to put $6 billion in stock and cash toward its pension plans, which are underfunded by roughly $27 billion. GM will fund the moves with its stockpile of cash, which now totals about $24 billion.

When all of the debt reductions are complete, GM will save about $500 million in interest payments each year.

Atlanta could be top stop, Southwest says

DALLAS --- Southwest Airlines Co. executives say Delta's hometown of Atlanta could become Southwest's top city within a few years after the company buys AirTran Airways.

CEO Gary Kelly also said that Southwest likely will buy new, larger planes from Boeing that would allow it to fly to Hawaii. The airline will need federal approval to fly the long over-water route to Hawaii with the Boeing 737-800 aircraft.

Kelly and other Southwest officials talked about the company's plans at its annual media day on Thursday.

Southwest doesn't fly to Atlanta right now, but AirTran operates about 200 flights a day there.

Executive Vice President Bob Jordan said Thursday that Southwest will augment AirTran's Atlanta service with flights to 20 or more cities where AirTran doesn't fly.

Documents reveal new claims against Toyota

LOS ANGELES --- Toyota Motor Corp. bought back cars from drivers who reported sudden acceleration defects, but the company didn't tell federal regulators about the problem, according to court documents filed in the sprawling litigation against the automaker.

Plaintiffs' lawyers contend the Japanese company compelled the owners to sign confidentiality agreements that prevented them from speaking publicly about the issues they encountered.

In some cases dating back to 2006, Toyota's own technicians experienced the vehicles speeding up without pressing the gas pedal, according to the documents filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court.

Toyota spokesman Mike Michels denied the allegations, saying company technicians weren't able to duplicate the sudden acceleration claimed by drivers in two instances.

In other news

VERIZON WIRELESS has agreed to pay a fine of $25 million and at least $52.8 million in refunds to customers who inadvertently racked up data charges over the last three years, federal regulators said Thursday. The Federal Communications Commission said the fine is the largest in its history.

POTASH CORP. reported Thursday that its third quarter profits jumped 62 percent to $402.7 million or $1.32 a share, the second-highest earnings for the quarter in the company's history. The company is fighting a hostile bid by Anglo-Australian BHP Billiton, the world's largest mining company.


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