Business & Finance

Oracle Corp. upped its hostile offer for software rival PeopleSoft to $9.4 billion Wednesday, the latest tactic in an eight-month takeover battle. By raising its bid by one-third, analysts said Oracle turned aside claims that its intent was merely to disrupt PeopleSoft's business. The analysts also said the new move sets the stage for a show- down when PeopleSoft, based in Pleasanton, Calif., holds its annual meeting March 25. Any deal would require approval by US and European Union antitrust regulators.

Despite support behind the scenes by Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, Germany's largest bank has ended merger talks with US financial-services giant Citigroup, the Financial Times reported. The talks, described as exploratory, came after months of speculation about a Deutsche Bank-Citigroup tieup. But, even given Schröder's backing, informed sources said a takeover of Deutsche Bank by a foreign competitor would be too politically controversial.

Morgan Stanley, the investment banking giant, fell to second place in the bidding for the builder of London's prime Canary Wharf development, Bloomberg.com reported. It said Brascan Corp. of Toronto, whose portfolio ranges from mines to electrical utilities to commercial properties, offered $3 billion for the 86-acre site, which comprises office towers, retail space, restaurants, pubs, conference facilities, and mass-transit stations. Brascan already owns 9 percent of Canary Wharf Group PLC. Morgan Stanley's offer, reportedly $2.5 billion, is scheduled to be voted on Feb. 23 by Canary Wharf shareholders.

Delta Air Lines has suspended plans to expand low-fare subsidiary, Song, The Wall Street Journal reported. The carrier had been expected to add service to the West Coast, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic to Song's Boston-New York-Florida routes, but that was put on hold pending a review of cost-cutting efforts, among them pay concessions demanded of unionized pilots.

Another 1,600 employees will lose their jobs, Britain's largest life insurance company announced. The move by Aviva PLC involves phasing out its Hill House Hammond brokerage business, the Financial Times said, because customers have shown they prefer buying policies through the Internet or by telephone. Aviva laid off 900 people last year when it transferred its call-center operations to India.

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