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abbott laboratories agreed to buy Alza Corp., a research-based pharmaceutical company, in a stock deal worth $7.3 billion. Alza, which employs 2,000 people, is based in Palo Alto, Calif. North Chicago-based Abbott has 56,000 employees and sells its products in 130 nations.

America Online said it would invest $1.5 billion in DirecTV owner Hughes Electronics Corp., giving AOL a means to offer high-speed Internet service via satellite as it battles for access to high-speed cable lines. The deal with Hughes, which offers digital-TV and Internet access, is the largest cash investment ever made by AOL, officials said.

Qwest's options were to raise its offer to U S West, take its proposal directly to U S West shareholders, or simply walk away. The Qwest chairman sent a letter to U S West, urging the Baby Bell to enter into discussions regarding a business combination. But U S West rejected - at least for now - the surprise $33.6 billion takeover bid and reaffirmed its plan to merge with Global Crossing Ltd.

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GTE Corp., accelerating efforts to divest itself of noncore assets, will sell three communications and electronics units from its government-systems division to General Dynamics Corp. for $1.05 billion in cash, it was announced.

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