Business & Finance

In one of history's largest corporate rescues, cable TV giant NTL persuaded bondholders to forgive almost two-thirds of its massive $17 billion debt. In return, the joint US-British company will yield full control of all assets in the United Kingdom and Ireland. The deal, which is subject to creditor approval, also calls for NTL Euroco, the company's operations in Switzerland, Germany, France, and Sweden, to be split off. In addition, some NTL subsidiaries will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

General Electric plans to cut 7,000 jobs at its financial-services division, GE Capital, as it seeks to reduce expenses at the unit by $1 billion this year, reports said. GE Capital has trimmed its work force by 19,000 in the past two years. Analysts said the move was in line with expectations, and that more layoffs were likely on the conglomerate's industrial side.

Hewlett-Packard said federal prosecutors in New York and the Securities and Exchange Commission are looking into whether it may have pressured big investors improperly to back a controversial $19 billion acquisition of Compaq Computer Corp. The inquiries stem from a lawsuit filed by dissident director Walter Hewlett, alleging that HP pressured Deutsche Bank to switch its opposition to the merger just before a March 19 shareholder vote. In addition, a prevote voicemail message leaked to the news media last week purportedly has HP chief Carly Fiorina telling another senior executive "we may have to do something extraordinary for [Deutsche Bank and fellow large shareholder Northern Trust Corp.] to bring them over the line here."

Fleet Boston Corp., battered by heavy losses in economically troubled Argentina, announced it will put its Robertson Stephens investment bank up for sale as one of a series of measures to focus energies instead on its "core mission" – low-risk personal financial services. Robertson Stephens, purchased for $800 million in 1999, now is valued at about $600 million. Fleet Boston also will cut back its private equity portfolio by $2 billion, to $2.5 billion, and freeze investment in Latin America.

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