Sprint, the No. 3 U.S. long-distance telephone company by sales, faces a possible strike today by 2,700 workers in five states who seek higher pay and a reduction in the use of contractors. The Communications Workers of America union is seeking three-year agreements for workers in Sprint's local-phone division in Oregon, Indiana, Tennessee, North Carolina and Florida.

Wal-Mart Maintains January Forecast

Wal-Mart Stores said sales at stores open at least a year rose last week. The world's largest retailer maintained its forecast for a January gain of 2 to 4 percent. Wal-Mart's sales were below or at the low end of its initial estimates in five of the past six months. Federated Department Stores, the Cincinnati-based owner of Macy's and Bloomingdale's, said its same-store sales were higher than forecast last week. Federated said again that it expects a decline of 4 to 5 percent in January. J.C. Penney, the second-biggest U.S. department-store company -- behind Sears, Roebuck -- said that sales through the third week were below its estimates and that sales this month will be little changed from a year earlier or increase up to 3 percent.

MORE NEWS

Microsoft and Sun Microsystems agreed on a proposal for complying with a U.S. judge's order that Microsoft must include Sun's Java programming language in Windows, Sun said.

BP, which last week said it will trim as many as 510 jobs this year from its U.S. oil-production business, plans to eliminate an additional 400 to 500 jobs in fuel retailing and marketing. London-based BP will shed as much as 2.5 percent of the 20,000 employed in U.S. gasoline retailing and marketing, a spokesman said. BP, Europe's third-largest oil company, expanded its U.S. network of service stations with the acquisitions of Amoco in 1998 and Atlantic Richfield in 2000.

Electronic Data Systems, the world's second-largest seller of computer services, hired former Michigan governor John Engler to help it win orders as president of a newly formed state and local government unit. Engler, 54, a Republican, was governor of Michigan from 1991 until this month. Electronic Data is Michigan's top computer-technology employer, with 13,000 employees in the state, the Plano, Tex.-based company said in a statement. Electronic Data's largest customer is Detroit-based General Motors.

Harris named former NCR president Howard L. Lance to replace retiring chief executive Phillip W. Farmer, who has been head of the communications-equipment maker since 1995.

INTERNATIONAL

Fiat said it may spin off its car unit and raise capital to develop new models as part of a plan to return Italy's biggest manufacturer to profit. The auto unit had an operating loss of less than $213 million in the fourth quarter, Fiat said, missing a break-even target it made in December. The company has cut 8,100 jobs and slashed production to turn around its car business. Fiat had its first full-year loss in a decade in 2001.

NEC will name Akinobu Kanasugi as president in March, replacing Koji Nishigaki, who was in charge when Japan's biggest maker of personal computers posted a record loss and shifted toward software and services. Kanasugi, 61, has been a senior vice president at NEC since 1999.

British billionaire Philip Green is considering a cash offer for Safeway PLC, joining four other suitors in a contest for Britain's fourth-largest supermarket chain that investors say may fetch as much as $5.8 billion.

LOCAL BUSINESS

Legg Mason, which is scaling back some of its European business, is closing its office in Glasgow, Scotland, after fund manager Andrew Gray quit the Baltimore-based company. Gray, 28, worked with John Johnston overseeing its U.K. Emerging Growth mutual fund. Johnston will stay with the firm.

Compiled from reports by the Associated Press, Bloomberg News, Dow Jones News Service and Washington Post staff writers