Business & Finance

Adding a potentially damaging claim to the federal inquiry

into MCI, communications giant AT&T planned to present evidence that its rival rerouted calls from the State Department and other federal agencies through Canada - a possible risk to national security - The New York Times reported. MCI allegedly redirected the calls as part of a broader effort to avoid paying local access fees. The evidence was being given to government investigators and the bankruptcy court overseeing MCI's case, the Times said. AT&T is the nation's leading long-distance provider; MCI is No. 2, and the federal government is its top customer.

The European Central Bank (ECB) is selling its Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae bonds and has advised other central banks to follow suit, the Bloomberg.com financial news service reported. The federally chartered companies are the top suppliers of mortgage financing in the US. But Freddie Mac is under scrutiny by regulators and prosecutors after last month's disclosure that it understated profits by as much as $4.5 billion over three years. The ECB and other central banks declined comment for the report.

In a deal valued at about $1.4 billion, the government of France sold 8.5 percent of its stake in the automaker Renault to private investors. The move was seen as another step in the Paris government's efforts to reduce debt and refinance unprofitable state-owned companies. The sale leaves the government with at least a 16.6 percent stake in Renault, which, it said, it had no plans to reduce further in the short term. Other planned sell-offs, such as in Electricité de France and France Telecom, are being challenged by labor unions or require enabling legislation.

A deal that would keep the struggling airline Swiss International in business appeared imminent, published reports said. Shares in the company's stock climbed as much as 11.6 percent in Monday's trading on the strength of the reports, which said German carrier Lufthansa next month would take a minority stake in Swiss (with an option for majority control later) and would provide a cash infusion of more than $300 million. Neither airline would comment, although the reports cited anonymous sources close to the chief executive officer of Swiss. Swiss emerged from the remnants of Swissair after the latter went out of business early last year. But it already has lost more than $700 million, has abandoned 25 percent of its destinations, and has announced deep layoffs.

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