Business & Finance

Verizon Communications, the nation's largest local telephone company, will begin adding a surcharge of up to $3 to the monthly bill of customers with high-speed Internet connections, Bloomberg.com and The New York Times reported. The charge reflects the cost to Verizon of its required contribution to the Universal Service Fund, a federal mechanism for providing telecommunications in rural areas and in schools and libraries. "We had hoped this fee ... would go away, but it hasn't," the company said in a statement explaining the surcharge, which about 2.5 million customers in Eastern states will see on next month's bills.

The 10-month battle between Morgan Stanley and Toronto's Brascan Corp. for control of an 86-acre London retail/professional office complex has come down to an auction that ends Friday, and at least one analyst said he anticipates neither side winning. Morgan Stanley is sitting on a $3.1 billion bid for Canary Wharf PLC - about $200 million more than has been offered by Brascan. But the latter already is an important shareholder in Canary Wharf and believes it has the support of almost enough other investors to block Morgan Stanley's takeover attempt. To succeed, the New York financial services giant needs the votes of 75 percent of Canary Wharf's investors. Brascan needs only a simple majority. It was not immediately clear whether either would submit a new offer by the deadline.

Opening bids in an auction to sell the Loews Cineplex Entertainment Corp. network of 282 North American theaters were valued at between $1.5 billion and $1.7 billion, The Wall Street Journal reported. Among the 10 bidders believed to have shown interest in entering the once- struggling movie theater industry are the equity funds J.P. Morgan Partners and Thomas H. Lee Partners LP. The auction may take about two months to complete. The Loews operation is based in New York, but the complexes are owned by Onex Corp, a Toronto investment firm.

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