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In the first bidding war for a Chinese business by two foreign companies, Anheuser-Busch, the world's largest brewer, gained the inside track in its effort to take over Harbin Brewery and become a force in China, home to the world's largest beer market. On Wednesday, CBS Marketwatch reported that Harbin's board had urged shareholders to reject a hostile bid from Britain's SABMiller, the world's second-largest brewer. SABMiller executives met Tuesday, according to the Financial Times, to consider countering Anheuser-Busch's latest offer of $717 million - 30 percent higher than SABMiller's latest bid for Harbin's outstanding shares.

Mel Karmazin, a highly regarded media industry executive, resigned unexpectedly Tuesday as the No. 2 executive at Viacom Inc., which owns CBS and MTV. Two senior Viacom executives replaced him, clearing the way for either to succeed CEO Sumner Redstone. Karmazin has said only that investors were concerned about his relationship with Redstone - one tainted by Karmazin's "frustration" with Viacom's sagging stock price and struggling radio division.

Republican leaders are considering a buyout for tobacco farmers that could cost as much as $10 billion. The Senate passed a version of the tax bill without a buyout, but a version with it could be sent to the House floor to entice lawmakers from tobacco states to vote for the larger tax bill. Declining cigarette sales and increasing tobacco imports have reduced the amount of the leaf farmers can sell each year; with a buyout, tobacco prices would no longer be kept artificially high. The tax break has been ruled an illegal export subsidy by the World Trade Organization and would result in penalty tariffs on some US exports.

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New Zealand's largest airline, Air New Zealand Ltd., will become the second carrier to place an order for Boeing's new 7E7s as part of an $849 million deal to buy six planes and lease four more, according to Bloomberg.com. The 7E7s, called Dreamliners, are still in development and are scheduled for delivery in 2008. The purchase of the relatively small, fuel-efficient planes, which contain 200 to 300 seats, could be influential as larger airlines consider buying from Boeing or Airbus, which is taking orders for its 550-seat A380.

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