Business & Finance

An unsolicited $8 billion to $11 billion all-stock offer for international lodging giant Six Continents PLC was extended by British hospitality-industry tycoon Hugh Osmond. Such a deal would be the largest in European lodging history, the financial reporting service Bloomberg.com said. But Six Continents, operator of more than 3,000 Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, and Inter-Continental hotels, wants to split its lodging and restaurant/pub businesses into separately traded companies, and Bloomberg.com quoted Osmond as saying he expected "a long fight" if the deal is to be completed. Six Continents is based in London.

Vivendi Universal, the troubled media conglomerate, has assured executives of its US music business that the unit won't be sold for at least two years, the Financial Times reported. The newspaper's online edition said that decision might well result in the withdrawal of a $20 billion offer for all Vivendi entertainment assets by US investor Marvin Davis and his partners. It cited sources familiar with the situation as saying Vivendi's cable-TV operations and Universal Studios would not generate sufficient cash flow to satisfy the Davis group without the music division.

The Justice Department has subpoenaed Royal Ahold NV, which last week disclosed $500 million in irregularities, for documents related to finances, audits, and other activities at its US Foodservice unit, the Dow Jones news service reported. In addition, Dutch regulators are investigating allegations, described in an anonymous letter to a shareholder group, that Ahold's recently dismissed chief financial officer tried to cover up other irregularities as well, among them bribery at an Argentine subsidiary and hidden bonuses to US Foodservice executives, the Washington Post reported.

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