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NEW YORK | The New York Times Co. will repay a $250 million, high-interest loan from Mexican telecommunications billionaire Carlos Slim earlier than expected, allowing the company to reduce interest payments.

Companies affiliated with Mr. Slim, a shareholder of the Times Co., lent the money at a hefty 14 percent interest rate at the height of the recession in January 2009. It came at a time when credit markets were tight and revenue prospects were bleak because of declines in print advertising.

Since then, the Times Co. has found other sources of cash, including the sale of $225 million in notes late last year at a lower rate of about 6.6 percent. The company also sold most of its midtown Manhattan headquarters for $225 million and is leasing the offices instead. Print advertising revenue remains weak, but the company’s flagship newspaper has begun charging for full access to its website.

GREECE

Country downgraded to one step above default

ATHENS | Greece suffered another sovereign downgrade on Wednesday, when the Fitch Ratings agency slashed its credit worthiness by three notches further into junk status and only one grade above default.

The agency cut Greece’s rating from “B+” to “CCC,” bringing it broadly in line with the other two major agencies, Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s, which had downgraded the country’s bonds to a similar level last month.

Greece relies on loans from a $155 billion international bailout from other eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund, and discussions are under way for a second bailout to keep the country’s crisis from destabilizing larger European economies.

However, no decisions have been made on how much more help Greece will get or in what way private holders of Greek bonds could contribute toward easing repayments. Credit ratings agencies have warned they could consider a voluntary rollover of Greek debt as a form of default.

ITALY

Country to bolster austerity plan

MILAN | Italy will strengthen its package of austerity measures and fast-track its approval by parliament, Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti pledged Wednesday as he sought to calm market fears that the eurozone’s third-largest economy would be swept into the European debt crisis.

Italy’s move to intensify its austerity drive received a much-needed boost from Fitch Ratings agency, which said the measures will help stabilize the government’s finances and its credit rating. Fitch is the last ratings agency to weigh in on Italy’s finances, after Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s both warned of possible downgrades.

Italian lawmakers were working to bolster the $67 billion in austerity measures that begin to take effect this year and aim to balance the budget by 2014.

The Senate is set to vote Thursday before passing off to the lower house Friday in votes that will measure confidence in Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s government.