Business & Finance

Pfizer Inc. agreed to buy smaller rival Pharmacia Corp. in a $60 billion stock deal that would make the world's biggest pharmaceuticals firm even bigger. The acquisition, which must be approved by shareholders and regulators, is likely to set off a wave of consolidations in the highly competitive industry, analysts said. Pfizer is based in New York and makes Viagra, among other products. Pharmacia is based in Peapack, N.J.

FleetBoston Financial Corp. posted a quarterly loss yesterday as it took more than $1.1 billion in charges, related to problems in Argentina and the cost of shutting down its Robertson Stephens investment bank. The Boston-based bank, the country's seventh-largest, reported a loss of $386 million, or 37 cents a share, for the second quarter. Analysts had expected FleetBoston to report a profit of 71 cents per share.

The euro rose above one-to-one with the dollar for the first time since February 2000 yesterday, trading at $1.0007 at midday on European markets. The American and shared European currencies had flirted with the psychologically important parity mark for weeks, with the dollar driven down by US corporate accounting scandals and doubts about the strength of the economy. The stockmarket also plummeted further yesterday, with Dow Jones industrials down more than 300 points at midday.

The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission said his agency could allow troubled WorldCom Inc. to be taken over by a smaller, regional phone company, the Wall Street Journal reported, signalling a reversal of a long-held antitrust stance. FCC Chairman Michael Powell told the Journal that "utter crisis" in the telecommunications industry could necessitate a return to the practice of allowing one company to control large parts of two or more markets.

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