Business & Finance

Vivendi Universal's eagerly anticipated auction of its US entertainment assets was expected to draw bids worth $10 billion to $15 billion from as many as five prospective buyers - among them Liberty Media, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and General Electric - The Wall Street Journal reported. The French conglomerate is selling Universal Studios and the USA and Sci-Fi channel cable networks, among others. Results won't be known for a few weeks, the Journal said.

With 5 million copies sold the first day, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" broke the record set by its predecessor in the series, said US publisher Scholastic Inc. Barnes & Noble, the bookstore chain, said 1 million copies of the latest work by British author J.K. Rowling flew off its shelves in 48 hours. The chain had expected it would take a week to sell that many. Some retailers reportedly are worried that Scholastic's initial run of 8.5 million copies won't keep pace with demand.

In an all-cash deal valued at $1.71 billion, Credit Suisse agreed to sell its Winterthur insurance operations in Italy to Unipol Assicurazioni SpA, the Dow Jones financial reporting service said.

"About 900" employees will lose their jobs because of the failure of AMP Ltd., the Australian financial services giant, to find a buyer for its divisions in Britain, the Financial Times reported. The company announced an overhaul last November that was to include the demerger of its interests in Britain. Instead, the newspaper quoted AMP's chief as saying its British pension fund, National Provident Institution, will be kept and two life insurance carriers have been placed under a single manager and will write no new policies.

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