News In Brief

Consolidated Edison sued Northeast Utilities, claiming a breach of their $3.8 billion merger agreement, and was threatened with a countersuit for backing away from the deal. ConEd, which seeks to be absolved of all obligations under the October 1999 agreement, alleges mismanagement of a Northeast subsidiary, Select Energy. The suit claims Select is at risk of running short of electricity to utility customers, forcing it to buy on the open market at higher rates than it will be able to recoup.

Amid antitrust concerns in the Department of Justice, United Airlines and US Airways postponed an April 2 deadline for their $4.3 billion merger. United had hoped to allay such concerns by entering into an agreement with American Airlines that would provide competitive service on exclusive United and US Airways routes. The Justice Department has asked for additional details about the United-American deal.

Royal Dutch/Shell, the British-Dutch energy giant, said it is offering $2.2 billion for privately held Barrett Resources Corp. of Denver. A spokesman described the bid as friendly, but said Shell intends "to commence a fully funded, all-cash" offer for majority control if necessary. Barrett owns or operates almost 3,500 natural gas wells in the Midwest, Southwest, Rocky Mountains, and the Gulf of Mexico, and is exploring for gas deposits in Peru.

Four hundred employees were laid off by Bear Sterns, the Financial Times reported, as the New York-based investment bank warned it would struggle to meet earnings expectations for the three months ending in February.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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