Business & Finance

The possible merger of CNN and ABC News is being discussed by AOL Time Warner Inc. and Walt Disney Co., the Los Angeles Times reported. It said the 18-month negotiations have picked up speed as both parent companies face intense pressure to improve their bottom lines. Still, the latest proposal – to form a stand-alone news division with more than $1.6 billion in revenues that would be at least two-thirds owned by AOL Time Warner – has received only lukewarm support from that company's board, the Times said.

Led by Honeywell International Inc., dozens of major companies have opted for out-of-court settlements a week before one of the largest asbestos-compensation trials in history is scheduled to open, the Financial Times reported. In all, 250 companies joined forces early this month to ask the US Supreme Court to block the trial, whose potential damage awards have been estimated in the billions of dollars. The defendants argued at the time that they couldn't differentiate between which of the 8,000 or so claimants had become ill from exposure to asbestos fibers and which had only the potential for injury. Honeywell wouldn't comment on its reasons for, or the terms of, the settlement. Dow Chemical, another defendant, announced it would contest the trial, the Financial Times said.

Xerox Corp.'s accounting practices are again under scrutiny, this time by the US attorney's office in Bridgeport, Conn., the document-copier titan revealed. Xerox, of Stamford, Conn., agreed earlier this year to a record $10 million fine and to the restating of its 1997-2001 financial reports, settling claims by the Securities and Exchange Commission that its former senior management engaged in massive fraud to mislead investors.

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