Business & Finance

The world's largest producer of industrial gases, Air Liquide SA, agreed to pay $3.3 billion for the American, British, and German operations of rival Messer Griesheim. The deal will include the assumption of $1.5 billion in debt. Air Liquide, which is based in Paris, said it expects regulators to insist that it divest itself of assets equivalent to 20 percent of Messer's sales before they'll OK the takeover. Antitrust concerns caused it to fail last year in a bid to acquire British rival BOC Group. Messer, which is based in Krefeld, Germany, sells its products and services in more than 30 countries, but among its most important customers are hospitals, clinics, and manufacturing plants in the US. Three years ago, it sold subsidiaries in the Caribbean, South America, Egypt, and South Korea to Air Liquide.

Honeywell International abandoned plans to sell its Bendix brake unit Monday, ending year-long negotiations with vehicle-parts manufacturer Federal-Mogul Corp. The deal would have shielded Honeywell from tens of thousands of asbestos-related lawsuits against Bendix, with Federal-Mogul assuming all liabilities. Federal-Mogul, based in Southfield, Mich., is already under Chapter 11 protection due to asbestos claims. Creditors - mainly lawyers for claimants - opposed the deal, according to the Financial Times. Honeywell, a leading maker of controls for heating systems and jet engines, is based in Morristown, N.J.

Carlsberg, one of the world's leading brewers, won a foothold in the lucrative German market with the $1.3 billion purchase of Holsten Brauerei AG, the financial news service CBS MarketWatch reported. Subject to regulatory approval, Carlsberg plans to sell off pieces of Holsten - among them its mineral water business - but will keep the beer labels and sales and distribution networks. Carlsberg is based in Copenhagen, Denmark. Holsten's headquarters are in Hamburg.

Another 15,000 jobs will be cut by Dec. 31 as France Telecom completes the second year of a three-year reorganization plan, the company announced. But it said as many of the cuts as possible would come through attrition - early retirements or reassignment of employees to other branches of France's civil service. The government-owned communications giant began the year with about 217,000 employees after cutting 13,000 jobs in 2003.

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