M&T Bank completed its $3.1 billion purchase of Allfirst, a U.S. subsidiary of Allied Irish Banks that lost $691 million in a foreign-currency trading scandal last year. Allfirst was sold for $886 million in cash and a 22.5 percent stake in the expanded M&T, which becomes the 18th-largest commercial bank based in the United States. The sale's close triggered the layoff of 346 Allfirst workers in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware, an Allfirst spokesman said. M&T will eliminate 144 jobs this summer and 642 at year-end, the spokesman said.

Pipeline Firm to Pay $34 Million

Colonial Pipeline, operator of the world's largest pipeline for refined petroleum fuel, agreed to pay a $34 million penalty and spend at least $30 million to improve safety to settle pollution charges stemming from spills of 1.45 million gallons of oil in five states. The Justice Department said Colonial will upgrade environmental protection along its 5,500-mile pipeline from Texas to New Jersey.

MORE NEWS

Qwest Communications, the telephone company that overstated sales by $2.21 billion, missed the deadline for filing its 2002 annual report. Qwest, the fourth-largest U.S. local-phone company, had until yesterday to present audited financial statements for 2002 to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company didn't say when the report would be ready.

Hairstylist Vidal Sassoon sued Procter & Gamble after the company said it will stop selling Sassoon products in the United States and Europe. Procter & Gamble acquired Sassoon's hair-care brand through its purchase of Richardson-Vicks in 1985. Sassoon's suit contends that Procter & Gamble destroyed the brand by skimping on marketing for his line to promote the company's other products. "I want my name back. I've lost total faith in them," Sassoon said.

HealthSouth, the rehabilitation hospital company accused of accounting fraud, delayed filing a 2002 annual report with the Securities and Exchange Commission as the company figures out its finances. The company said last week that previously filed financial statements may be unreliable back to 1986, the year it began selling shares to the public.

Fleming filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, a month after the grocery distributor severed its ties to its largest customer, retailer Kmart, which entered bankruptcy last year. Kmart at one time accounted for one-fifth of Fleming's revenue.

The House passed a bill that would permit banks to pay interest on business checking accounts, reversing a ban that dates to the Great Depression. The bill, which now goes to the Senate, also would let the Federal Reserve pay interest on reserve funds that banks must place with the Fed.

Hershey Foods plans to sell sugar-free chocolates for the first time in its 109-year history to attract more health-conscious consumers. The candies will include Reese's Sugar Free Peanut Butter Cup Miniatures, Hershey's Sugar Free Dark Chocolate and Sugar Free Chocolate with Almonds. The chocolates will contain the sugar substitute lactitol, which will cause a small rise in blood sugar, the company said.

Sprint's wireless affiliates said the telephone company is pushing some of them toward bankruptcy. Horizon and US Unwired, which borrowed more than $1 billion combined to build mobile-phone networks to sell services under the Sprint name, said they may be unable to pay those debts. They blame Sprint, the fourth-largest U.S. mobile phone company, for raising network-access fees and forcing them to accept sub-prime customers.

A federal judge denied a request by Visa and MasterCard to throw out an antitrust lawsuit against them, clearing the way for a trial April 21. The judge also denied MasterCard's demand for a separate trial. Wal-Mart Stores, Sears and other merchants are seeking damages in a class-action suit brought in 1996. The plaintiffs say excessive transaction fees have cost them more than $15 billion in the past decade.

Kohler, a maker of plumbing fixtures and electric generators, must pay $25 million in punitive damages to relatives of a couple killed by carbon monoxide while sleeping in a cabin cruiser in 1999, a St. Louis jury decided. The parents and children of Randolph and Lois Anderson said an exhaust pipe on a Kohler Power Systems generator was defective and allowed carbon monoxide to leak from the boat's exhaust system. The jury also awarded $691,000 in compensatory damages, their lawyer said.

Massey Energy restated its 2001 and 2002 financial results. The Richmond-based coal mining company said routine review of its fiscal statements by the Securities and Exchange Commission led it to amend its 2001 results to a loss of $5.4 million. It had previously said it lost $1.1 million that year. In 2002, the company lost $32.6 million; earlier, it reported a loss of $32 million. The company said the changes resolved all issues raised by the SEC.

Chrysler followed General Motors in offering interest-free, five-year loans to purchase some vehicles. Chrysler also increased cash rebates on certain vehicles to as much as $4,500.

Gap urged shareholders to reject a proposal that stock options be accounted for as expenses because it would make it difficult to attract executives by limiting the retailer's ability to grant options.

INTERNATIONAL

The French parliament adopted a law to let the government reduce its stake in Air France to below 50 percent. Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin's plan to sell as much as 40 percent of Air France required changing the law that said the government must own at least 50 percent of the airline. Transport Minister Gilles de Robien expects the share sale to happen sometime this year, depending on stock market conditions.

German manufacturers expect to reduce production as the outlook for exports dims, the Ifo economic institute said. Business confidence in Europe's largest economy fell in March, Ifo said last week, and analysts said unemployment probably rose again after reaching its highest level in almost five years in February.

Venezuela's inflation rate fell in March to its lowest level in 15 months. Consumer prices rose 0.8 percent in March, compared with a 5.5 percent increase in February, the central bank said. The trailing 12-month inflation rate fell to 34 percent from 39 percent.

LOCAL BUSINESS

A federal judge approved a Chapter 11 reorganization plan for Henninger Media Services, allowing the Arlington-based post-production firm to emerge from bankruptcy by April 14. Founder and chief executive Rob Henninger said the company has shrunk to about 100 employees and three locations after layoffs and the closing of its Richmond office in February. Henninger filed for bankruptcy last July.

W.R. Grace & Co., a Columbia specialty chemicals firm, said it has extended its $250 million debtor-in-possession loan agreement for three years with a group of lenders led by Bank of America. The agreement is effective until April 1, 2006, at the latest. Grace filed for bankruptcy reorganization in April 2001.

EARNINGS

Best Buy said its fiscal fourth-quarter profit fell 11 percent, to $311 million, because of a loss at its mall-based stores. Sales in the three months ended March 1 rose 11 percent, to $6.99 billion, after the company opened more stores.

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

Derrick Milan of Belleville, Mich., left, and Tony Colbert of Detroit shop for a Ford Explorer at a car lot in Southgate, Mich. Sales by the Big Three U.S. automakers fell 3.8 percent last month.