Business & Finance

BellSouth and AT&T Corp. broke off merger negotiations Tuesday, published reports said. BellSouth, spun off in the historic 1984 breakup of the AT&T communications empire, is based in Atlanta and is the nation's third-largest local carrier. The two have held on-again, off-again negotiations since 2001. But sources told The Wall Street Journal that BellSouth finally balked at the $19 billion acquisition price for its former parent. AT&T, the nation's largest long-distance provider, is based in Bedminster, N.J.

Microsoft agreed to a $200 million antitrust settlement Tuesday in class-action lawsuits in Kansas, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Washington D.C. The money would be in the form of vouchers for computer equipment. With the latest deal, the world's premier software company is "well over halfway to resolving our consumer class-action lawsuits," said its general counsel, Brad Smith. Microsoft also is working through a raft of suits brought by competitors and federal and state agencies.

HSBC, the world's third-largest financial services group, agreed to buy Bank of Bermuda Ltd. for $1.3 billion. With 48,000 depositors, the latter is the No. 1 bank in the British dependency/tax haven, but it was equally attractive as a takeover target because it manages $22 billion in investment funds for about 5,000 wealthy clients. It will keep its name and its Hamilton headquarters if the deal is approved by regulators and shareholders, the Bermuda Sun newspaper reported. HSBC is based in London. Earlier this month, HSBC bought the Brazilian operations of rival British banking giant Lloyd's TSB for $815 million.

As many as 500 employees will be laid off by MDS Inc., a leading healthcare services company with operations in Canada, the US, and Europe, the Canadian Press news service reported. It said MDS, which is based in Toronto, expects the move to result in an immediate cost-saving of $7.6 million and another $30 million in succeeding years.

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