Business & Finance

Swiss food giant Nestlé said it will buy Chef America Inc., Denver-based maker of Hot Pockets frozen sandwiches, for $2.6 billion in cash and assumed debt. Nestlé is the world's biggest food company, with products that include chocolates, Nescafé coffee, Perrier bottled water, and Friskies cat food. It's been pushing to expand its already significant US presence, and is believed to be among those interested in acquiring candymaker Hershey Foods.

In the latest blow to the energy sector, Mirant Corp. said it was responding to an informal inquiry by the Securities and Exchange Commission into possible accounting mistakes. The Atlanta-based energy trader and marketer disclosed last week that it may have misstated $253 million in assets and liabilities in 2001.

The Procter and Gamble Co. said it was "prepared" to begin counting stock options as expenses by fiscal 2004, but wouldn't guarantee to do so. Coca-Cola, General Electric, and Amazon.com are among the increasing number of large US companies to adopt the practice. Cincinnati-based Procter and Gamble is the US leader in household products, which include Tide detergent, Pringles potato chips, Pampers diapers, and the Clairol hair-care line.

Cablevision Systems Corp. will eliminate the stock it created last year to "track" the performance of its Rainbow Media networks, which include cable channels American Movie Classics and Bravo. The tracking stock, meant to highlight Rainbow's prospects, instead became a victim of Cablevision's financial woes as its price plunged this year, reports Newsweek. The company tomorrow faces skeptical Wall Street analysts and is expected to use Rainbow to help close a funding gap of several hundred million dollars. Analysts say it may sell another stake in the Rainbow networks, possibly to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which paid $825 million for a 20 percent stake in four of them last year.

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