Business & Finance

Setting off a possible bidding war, EchoStar Communications offered $1.8 billion for bankrupt Loral Space & Communications, The Wall Street Journal reported. That would nix a proposed deal for Loral to sell four satellites and other assets to Intelsat, EchoStar's rival, for $1 million as part of a court-approved restructuring, and Loral's chairman rejected the new bid as too low. EchoStar, based in Littleton, Colo., is the second-largest broadcaster of direct television services in the US.

General Electric turns out to be the prospective buyer that has contacted British diagnostics equipment manufacturer Amersham PLC, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing sources familiar with the situation. The latter said Wednesday it has been approached regarding a takeover but was withholding further details for the time being. Initial speculation focused on healthcare giants Johnson & Johnson of the US and Roche Group of Switzerland. Amersham is valued at $7.12 billion. For its part, GE is engaged in a buying spree under chairman Jeffrey Immelt. It is nearing completion of a $2.3 billion deal for Finland's Instrumentarium Corp., another maker of medical devices. Earlier this week, it signed a deal to pay $14 billion for the US entertainment assets of Vivendi Universal, and over the summer it agreed to buy most of Transamerica Finance from Dutch insurance giant Aegon NV for $5.4 billion.

Shopping mall and real estate giant Simon Property Group dropped a $1.7 billion hostile takeover bid for smaller rival Taubman Centers Wednesday. The announcement came a day after Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) signed shareholder legislation that would help the controlling Taubman family resist the effort. Taubman, based in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., operates 30 shopping centers in 13 states.

Clearing the way for an auction of bankrupt Farmland Industries' pork business, Justice Department antitrust regulators said the sale won't risk creating a monopoly. The two main bidders are Cargill Inc. and Smithfield Foods, the nation's top pork processor. Both companies practice contract farming, a trend that critics blame for driving independent livestock producers out of business.

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