Business & Finance

Manulife Financial of Toronto agreed to buy John Hancock Financial Services of Boston in a $10.4 billion all-stock deal that is one of the largest in Canadian history. Pending regulatory and shareholder approval, it will allow Manulife to reclaim its title as Canada's largest life insurer and will create the fourth-largest carrier in the US and the fifth-largest in the world. Last year, expansion-minded Manulife failed in a hostile takeover bid for rival Canadian Life Financial Corp. and in 2001 it was edged out in merger efforts with Clarica Life Insurance Co. in deals worth $5.1 billion and $4.7 billion, respectively. Toronto's Globe & Mail newspaper reported that the new partners agreed to cut expenses by $350 million over the next three years, in part through an unspecified number of layoffs. It said Dominic D'Alessandro, Manulife's chairman, would become chief executive officer of the combined company, and John Hancock chief David D'Alessandro would be named president. The two are not related.

Without announcing a goal, the state-owned postal service of Germany said it will sell shares through an initial public offering (IPO) in Postbank, the nation's largest in terms of number of customers. Deutsche Post said the shares will be sold in early 2005. Unless another IPO is scheduled before then, that will be the first on Deutsche Börse, Germany's largest stock exchange, since last November.

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