Business & Finance

Marathon, the fourth-largest US oil and gas company, agreed Friday to buy its partner's 38 percent stake in their joint venture, Marathon Ashland Petroleum (MAP). The deal was valued at $3 billion in cash, stock, and assumption of debt. MAP, of Findlay, Ohio, refines and sells gasoline for the Midwestern market. Marathon also will acquire complementary Ashland businesses, among them 61 oil-change centers in Michigan and Ohio for $94 million. Marathon is based in Houston; Ashland in Covington, Ky.

ChevronTexaco said it is considering whether to appeal a court order to pay the state of Louisiana $102 million in damages, interest, and legal fees. A jury in Lafourche Parish found the oil giant guilty Friday of failing to compensate taxpayers fully with royalties on products derived from land leased from the state between 1987 and 1999. Chevron and Texaco merged in 2001.

Spirit Airlines, a low-fare carrier that specializes in flying passengers from the Northeast and Midwest to vacation spots, placed a $2 billion order with Airbus for 35 new planes to replace its entire fleet. The deal could increase to $5 billion if Spirit, based in Miramar, Fla., exercises an option to buy 60 additional planes.

SBC Communications of the US and other minority shareholders in Belgacom, Belgium's largest phone company, appeared on course to realize $4.4 billion from Europe's largest initial public offering in three years. The sellers, all non-Belgian, said they wanted to unload their Belgacom shares to invest the cash in their own markets.

US banking giant Morgan Stanley and its partner upped the ante to $3.1 billion in the battle for Canary Wharf, the 86-acre London complex of prime professional office and retail space. Friday's $183 million bid is higher than its previous offer and almost $200 million higher than a competing bid by Brascan Corp., a Toronto conglomerate with interests in real estate, electric utilities, mining companies, and papermaking.

In a deal valued at $1.7 billion, the largest electric utility in Italy, Enel SpA, said it would sell a portfolio of 887 properties to a partnership led by Deutsche Bank of Germany. Enel is two years into a plan to divest itself of noncore assets to focus on its energy business.

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