Business & Finance

Crude oil prices picked up where they left off last week in electronic trading Monday, climbing to a new record of $41.75 a barrel for June deliveries - 37 cents higher than Friday's close - as worry spread that the world supply would fail to meet the peak summer driving demand in the US. Terrorism also was contributing to the problem, with the assassination in Baghdad of Izzedine Salim, who held the rotating presidency of Iraq's Governing Council, and explosions that damaged four bank branches of Britain's HSBC Holdings PLC in Istanbul and Ankara, Turkey, on the eve of an official visit by Prime Minister Tony Blair. Turkey's Bosporus and Dardanelles are the main shipping route for crude from former Soviet republics to markets around the Mediterranean Sea. OPEC, the oil cartel, will consider increasing its output at a meeting in Amsterdam next week, its president said. But Qatar's oil minister told journalists over the weekend that OPEC's 11 members have little spare capacity.

Details were expected within days of a new plan to save deeply troubled French engineering giant Alstom SA. Officials of the Paris government and the European Union said they have agreed on the basics of a deal and hinted it could involve a promise by the former not to extend any more state aid to the company. Alstom, which built the Queen Mary 2; France's high-speed train, the TGV; and power plants and public transit systems, already has used up a $3.8 billion government bailout extended late last year. It also missed a March 31 deadline to meet required financial targets. Its collapse could throw 36,000 people out of work.

XTO Energy Inc. agreed to buy $1.1 billion worth of mature oil and natural gas fields from ChevronTexaco Corp. XTO, of Fort Worth, Texas, is the second biggest independent oil and gas company in the US and specializes in boosting production from - or slowing the rate of decline of - mature wells.

A $1.7 billion hostile takeover bid was rejected by Pennon Group, the main supplier of water to southwestern England and a leading waste-removal service. But The Times (London) reported that would-be buyer Terra Firma, a British private equity firm, was increasing pressure on its target by bidding simultaneously for two landfill sites that Pennon needs but which could be merged with its own recycling business.

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