Business & Finance

For the first time since 1988, the price of gold futures closed above $453 an ounce Monday, although analysts said they expected a retreat to lower levels in the short term. Earlier in the day on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the price for December deliveries was as high as $454.80 before settling back. The fact that the US dollar continues to lose ground against the euro - the latter broke above $1.32 for the first time last week - makes gold a relatively cheap buy for foreign investors, the analysts said.

Kellogg Co. moved quickly to appoint a successor to chief executive Carlos Gutierrez, President Bush's choice to be secretary of Commerce in his second administration. James Jenness, head of the cerealmaker's consumer marketing committee, will take over the top post if Congress confirms Gutierrez's appointment.

A major construction company said it will pay $1.7 billion for a seat on the board of Spain's No. 2 financial institution, Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria. Sacyr Vallehermoso Group of Madrid probably seeks to effect changes in the management of the bank, analysts said. In addition to its construction business, the buyer also is a developer and realtor and offers property and infrastructure management services.

Blackstone Group, a leading US private equity firm, announced the acquisition of British nursing home operator NHP for $1.1 billion. The deal was the second of its type for Blackstone in Britain this year, and a senior executive said it plans to merge NHP with Southern Cross, a smaller nursing home chain it bought in September.

Trash hauler/recycler BFI Canada Income Fund will buy IESI Corp. of Fort Worth, Texas, for $1.1 billion in stock and debt. IESI is one of the largest solid waste companies in the US, with residential and commercial clients in nine states. The acquisition is expected to enlarge BFI's customer base by 84 percent, Bloomberg.com reported.

Merrill Lynch's private equity unit and two other buyout firms bid $3.45 billion for Rexel SA, a maker and distributor of lighting products, cables, plugs, switches, and connectors for the international market. The company, based in Paris, is a subsidiary of luxury retailer Pinault- Printemps Redoute, which has decided to narrow its focus to its core business.

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