Business & Finance

Embattled Arthur Andersen LLP is in talks with another of the Big Five accounting firms, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, about the sale of some or all of its assets, various reports said, with a deal possible as soon as this week. Any acquisition would hinge, the reports said, on shielding Deloitte Touche from the financial and criminal liabilities Andersen faces as a result of its auditing of bankrupt Enron Corp. Deloitte Touche is the second-largest US accounting firm; Andersen ranks fifth.

In the year's largest high-tech merger to date, chipmaker Intersil Corp. said it will acquire rival Elantec Semiconductor Inc. for $1.4 billion in cash and stock. Intersil specializes in wireless communications chips, which connect laptops and hand-held devices to the Internet and other networks. Elantec sells mostly to foreign makers of DVDs, compact discs, and flat-panel displays. Intersil's headquarters are in Irvine, Calif.; Elantec's in Milpitas, Calif.

While stressing that no deal is imminent, The Wall Street Journal reported that Federated Department Stores and May Department Stores are discussing a possible merger. Cincinnati-based Federated is the larger, operating Macy's, Bloomingdale's, Burdine's, and other outlets. May is the parent of such chains as Lord & Taylor, Filene's, Kaufman's, and Strawbridge's. It is based in St. Louis.

In the hope that a name change will help restore its reputation, drugmaker American Home Products Co. became known as Wyeth, effective Monday. The Madison, N.J.-based company recently settled a product-liability lawsuit for its "fen-phen" diet-drug combination, which was ruled unsafe in 1997, for a record $3.75 billion.

Avaya Inc., once the networking division of telecommunications giant Lucent Technologies, announced the layoffs of 1,900 employees and said it will sell 14.4 million shares to New York investor Warburg Pincus Equity Partners. Avaya was spun off by Lucent two years ago. The company is based in Basking Ridge, N.J.

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