News In Brief

In a "merger of equals," Monsanto Corp. and the US-Swedish pharmaceutical giant Pharmacia & Upjohn confirmed weekend reports that they would join forces. The deal, announced in Stockholm, will result in a company with $50 billion in capital and annual sales of $10 billion in prescription drugs alone. The companies said they plan to operate Monsanto's agricultural-chemicals business as a legally separate entity.

In a flurry of other pre-Christmas deals:

*Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. and Canadian National Railway Corp. announced a $19 billion merger. The combined company, to be based in Montreal and called North American Railways Inc., will have 50,000 miles of track stretching from Halifax, Nova Scotia, south to New Orleans and west to Los Angeles and Vancouver, British Columbia.

*Cisco Systems Inc. of San Jose, Calif., will acquire the optical networking systems division of Italy's Pirelli SpA in a $2.1 billion all-stock transaction, a source close to the parties said. The Pirelli unit is a leader in dense-wave-division multiplexing, a technology that uses colored light instead of electronic pulses to boost the bandwidth of networks that transmit phone, video, and Internet traffic.

*Virgin Atlantic is selling a 49 percent interest to Singapore Airlines for about $1 billion, and the two will form a global alliance, it was announced in London. The carriers will retain their own identities, managements, and routes.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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