Business & Finance

In the year's biggest merger, AT&T agreed to sell its Broadband cable division to Comcast Corp. for $52 billion plus the assumption of $20 billion in debt. AT&T's board had rejected the deal five months ago when Comcast was offering $41 billion. Also rejected were bids by AOL Time Warner and Cox Communications. The combined company, to be named AT&T Comcast Corp., will have 22.3 million subscribers in 41 states, including 17 of the 20 largest metropolitan markets. By contrast, the current leader, AOL Time Warner, has a subscriber base of 12.7 million. AT&T chairman Michael Armstrong will assume the same duties at the new company, reports said.

Tyson Foods Inc., the world's largest producer and marketer of poultry, was indicted on 36 counts of smuggling illegal immigrants from Mexico and providing them with fraudulent work papers. Federal prosecutors in Chatta-nooga, Tenn., where the indictment was announced, would not say how many immigrants were involved but alleged that the practice began in 1994 and includes 15 processing plants in nine states: Tennessee, Virginia, Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Texas. The charges also cover a vice president and five managers. Four other persons were named as unindicted coconspirators. Tyson is based in Springdale, Ark.

Financial services giant Citigroup announced plans to spin off its Travelers property and casualty insurance unit, which, its chairman said, has been growing at a slower rate than other divisions in the company. An initial public offering early next year could raise as much as $5 billion when Citigroup puts up to 20 percent of its Travelers stock for sale, analysts estimated.

Verizon Wireless and Price Communications revived a deal to merge that was canceled last year and will link their operations after all, reports said. Terms call for Verizon to pay $1.15 billion and to assume $550 million of Price's debt. Verizon, the nation's largest wireless provider, has about 29 million customers. Price, which does business as Cellular One, has more than 560,000 in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina.

FleetBoston Financial Corp., the US's seventh-largest holding company in its field, said it will lay off 700 workers and take a $650 million after-tax charge that all but wipes out fourth-quarter profits. Among other problems, the Boston-based parent of Fleet Bank cited its trade of investments in financially troubled Argentina for government securities.

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