News In Brief

The $3.8 billion merger of Northeast Utilities and Consolidated Edison, resulting in the US's largest electric utility, appeared to be collapsing, reports said. ConEd raised concerns that a Northeast subsidiary, Select Energy, which might soon have to buy power on the open market, could fall into the same situation that has led two major California utilities to accrue billions of dollars in debt. Meanwhile, Berlin, N.H.-based Northeast Utilities, accusing ConEd of walking away from their October 1999 deal, set a 5 p.m. Monday deadline for confirmation of the merger.

Xerox will sell half of its stake in a joint venture with Japan's Fuji Photo Film Co. for $1.34 billion in cash, the partners announced. The deal is the second sale of assets in Asia in three months for Xerox, which is trying to offset heavy losses last year and cope with increased competition by raising cash.

Despite a higher offer submitted at the 11th hour, shareholders decided Royal Dutch/Shell and a US partner should be the winners of the bidding for the oil and natural gas division of Fletcher Challenge Group, New Zeland's largest company. The deal will be worth $2.1 billion in cash and stock, reports said. Shell and Apache Corp., an oil and gas exploration company based in Houston, fended off a British/Canadian/New Zealand consortium calling itself Peak Petroleum. Fletcher Challenge Energy originally was to have been sold last October to Shell alone for $1.8 billion, but the deal ran into regulatory concerns and was restructured.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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