Negotiations on a three-way, $30 billion merger that would result in "the AOL-Time Warner of Europe" could be completed as soon as this weekend, reports said. In Paris, the communications and utilities giant Vivendi confirmed that it and pay-TV partner Canal Plus were discussing such a deal with Canadian entertainment and beverage conglomerate Seagram Co. Assumption of Seagram debt would push the value of an agreement to almost $40 billion, the reports said. Seagram owns Polygram Records and Universal Studios, whose combined output would be distributed in Europe via Canal Plus and Vivendi's entertainment and Internet channels. Seagram's alcoholic spirits and soft drink business likely would be split off and resold, the reports said, perhaps to Remy Cointreau, a leading French distributor of wines and other alcoholic beverages.
A deal in the $3.5 billion range that would leave the No. 2 brewer in Britain free to focus on its faster-growing hotel business was expected as the Monitor went to press. It called for Bass PLC to sell its ale and beer division to Interbrew of Belgium, making the latter the world's second-largest brewer, after Anheuser Busch of the US. Bass operates the Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, and Inter-Continental hotel chains as well as 3,000 pubs in the United Kingdom.
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