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Exxon Mobil Corp. will appeal a record-setting $3.5 billion verdict by a jury that found it had defrauded the state of Alabama on royalties from natural gas wells., a spokes-man said. The penalty is six times larger than the previous record for a civil damages case in the state.The two sides have been squabbling since 1995 over how much the oil company owes in royalties from wells drilled in state waters.

In history's largest deal involving makers of alcoholic beverages, Britain's Diageo PLC and Pernod Ricard of France said they would acquire the Seagram's empire for $8.15 billion in cash. Diageo will assume 61 percent ownership of Seagram, to 39 percent for its partner.

Vodafone Group, the world's largest wireless carrier, confirmed reports last week that it would acquire a 15 percent stake in Japan Telecom, that nation's No. 3 telecommunications provider. A Vodafone announcement valued the deal at $2.2 billion, about $300 million less than earlier estimates.

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Johns Manville Corp., the US's No. 2 maker of building insulation, agreed to be acquired by Berkshire Hathaway, the holding company of investment magnate Warren Buffett. The $1.9 billion deal followed the collapse earlier this month of merger plans with a group of private investors led by takeover specialists Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst. Johns Manville's operations will continue to be based in Denver, the company said.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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