Business & Finance

The 100,000-member Communications Workers of America and SBC Communications, the nation's No. 2 local phone company, reached tentative agreement on a new contract, their spokesmen said. The announcement followed a four-day strike that affected SBC operations in 13 states. If approved by union members, the new deal provides annual wage increases and protection from layoffs, but calls on them to make higher copayments for healthcare.

Vodafone Group, the world's largest cellphone company, said it would buy back $5.4 billion more of its stock and has offered to acquire the 33 percent of its Japanese subsidiary that it doesn't already own. The company put the latter offer at $4.7 billion. Vodafone already has repurchased $2 billion worth of its own shares.

Cingular Wireless agreed to sell its cellphone network in California and Nevada to Deutsche Telekom AG for $2.5 billion. But the all-cash deal is contingent upon Cingular winning the OK of antitrust regulators for its $41 billion acquisition of AT&T Wireless. In addition, part of the purchase price will be offset by a $200 million payment by Cingular for termination of its joint venture with Deutsche Telekom. Analysts said the latter needs to expand in the US because the market there is growing faster than that of Germany, whose economy remains sluggish.

Verizon Communications has decided to sell its telephone directory business in Canada - a venture that could fetch as much as $1 billion, sources "familiar with the matter" told The Wall Street Journal. Its report said Verizon wants to focus more on paying down its debt and on investing in wireless and fiber-optic technologies.

General Electric's Commercial Finance subsidiary will pay about $2 billion for Boeing Capital Corp., the latter's financing arm, the companies announced Monday. Analysts said the agreement is in line with Boeing's decision earlier this year to pull out of nonaerospace markets.

A consortium of US investors said it will buy the nation's fourth-largest producer of coal from its German parent for about $1 billion. Analysts told The Wall Street Journal that RAG Coal International, a subsidiary of energy giant RAG Aktiengesellschaft, is attractive to the Blackstone Group of Chicago, First Reserve Corp. of Greenwich, Conn., and their partners because coal for electricity generation is in tight supply and its price has increased more than 50 percent over the past 12 months.

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