News In Brief

AT&T and time warner formed a joint venture to offer telephone service over the latter's cable-TV wires in 33 states. The partnership will pay $15 to Time Warner for each home its network reaches. Payment, in two annual installments, is expected to total about $300 million. The deal comes as AT&T is close to completing a purchase of Time Warner's biggest cable-TV rival, Tele-Communications Inc. The two deals would allow AT&T to reach more than 40 percent of US households.

In a deal valued at $5.76 billion, US and French insurance companies were expected to announce their joint purchase of Guardian Royal Exchange, a major British insurer. Boston-based Liberty Mutual and Axa, Europe's second-largest carrier, outbid two rivals for the prize. Under the deal, Liberty Mutual would acquire Guardian Royal's property-casualty interests - among them The Netherlands Insurance Company. Ironically, Guardian Royal outbid Liberty Mutual for The Netherlands just last year.

French banks Socit Gnrale and Paribas announced plans to merge to form a new group, SG Paribas. It would be the world's fourth-largest bank in terms of shareholder funds, at 21 billion euros (about $23.9 billion).

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