Business & Finance

The megamerger of Exelon Corp. and Public Service Enterprise Group Inc. (PSEG) almost certainly will attract heavy scrutiny from regulators, analysts predicted after the companies announced a $12 billion stock swap late Monday. It would create a behemoth of an electricity/ natural gas utility, with a base of 18 million customers from Illinois to New Jersey and combined revenues of $26.1 billion last year. Exelon is based in Chicago; PSEG in Newark, N.J.

Microsoft expects to learn Wednesday whether the sweeping sanctions ordered against its operations in Europe will be suspended while it appeals the matter. The software giant asked the Court of First Instance in Luxembourg to stay the ruling by the European Union last March that it pay a record $666 million fine, share certain trade secrets with its competitors, and modify some of its products so that they're compatible with those made by rivals. Analysts said the appeal of that ruling could drag on for up to five years.

Expedia, the highly profitable Internet travel site, will be spun off to stockholders early next year by its parent company, InterActive Corp., the latter announced. Entertainment tycoon Barry Diller will remain as chairman of both, the announcement said. Expedia has generated revenues of more than $1.8 billion this year. InterActive is an umbrella company comprising dozens of businesses, ranging from the Home Shopping Network to TicketMaster.

James Hardie Industries, once among the world's larger makers of asbestos, agreed to set aside $1.14 billion in compensation for persons diagnosed with diseases because of exposure to its product. The money will go into a fund over a 40-year period, the company said. Such a fund has been maintained for years, but its size - $224 million - had brought endless criticism, and in 2001 the company moved its headquarters from Australia to the Netherlands. Trade unions in Australia, which led a boycott of its building materials to try to force an increase in the size of the fund, called it off after the announcement.

PanAmSat became the latest company to seek a return to the stock market after being acquired by a private equity firm. The Wilton, Conn., operator of communications satellites filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission Monday for approval for an initial public offering of shares worth $1.12 billion. PanAmSat was bought earlier this year by investors led by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts for $4.2 billion. Other corporations relisting on the market after being similarly acquired include the chemical group Celanese, TRW Automotive, Foundation Coal Holdings Inc., and Nalco, a leading water-treatment business.

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