Business & Finance

Indications grew that Arthur Andersen LLP's worldwide network may not exist for much longer. Thirteen of the troubled company's Asia-Pacific affiliates are backing a proposed merger with Netherlands-based rival KPMG that would create that region's biggest accounting firm. Similar talks under way in Frankfurt, Germany, cover Andersen operations in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Canada, and Latin America. In the US, Chicago-based Andersen is under federal indictment for destroying Enron Corp. documents and faces lawsuits seeking as much as $1 billion.

Halliburton Co., the world's largest supplier of services for oil and natural gas exploration, will split into wholly owned subsidiaries, an e-mail message to employees said. The move, to be completed by midyear, will necessitate layoffs, it said. The restructuring will separate the company's energy services group from its engineering and construction unit. Dallas-based Halliburton's shares have slid 60 percent in value in less than a year, largely because verdicts it has lost in asbestos-related claims.

Alltel Corp. said it will pay $1.65 billion for the wireless assets of CenturyTel Inc. The announcement followed Alltel's failed attempt to buy all of its rival for $5.9 billion. Both companies specialize in providing telephone service to rural areas. Alltel's headquarters are in Little Rock, Ark.; CenturyTel's in Monroe, La.

Bertelsmann, the multimedia giant, abandoned efforts to buy the remaining stake in Europe's largest broadcaster that it doesn't already own. Last Christmas, the German publishing, broadcasting, and music conglomerate paid $1.35 billion to raise its ownership of RTL Group to 89 percent, later upping that to 90.2 percent. But in a statement, Bertelsmann executives said they decided on the basis of "detailed discussions" that a new offer "cannot be made." RTL operates 23 TV and 17 radio stations across Europe, plus production facilities in 36 other countries.

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