Business & Finance

Even more intrigue enveloped the takeover of Yukos's most vital asset as the obscure Russian shell company that bought it at a tax auction earlier this week was itself taken over Wednesday by a government-owned oil and natural gas producer. A defensive President Vladimir Putin told a news conference in Moscow that the apparently secret buyout of all shares in BaikalFinans Group by OAO Rosneft was "completely legal" and helps to reverse some of the privatizations of Russian industries over the past decade, which he said were unfair and marked by trickery. BaikalFinans paid an announced $9.3 billion for Yukos's main crude-oil production unit, or less than half its estimated market value. No sale price for Rosneft's acquisition of the BaikalFinans shares was announced. Rosneft, in turn, is being merged with Gazprom, the state-owned natural gas monopoly - a move that will give Putin control over an industry that is second in energy production only to Saudi Arabia, analysts said.

Masonite International Corp. agreed to be acquired by leveraged buyout specialist Kohlberg Kravis Roberts in a $2.5 billion all-cash deal that will take the company private. Masonite, based in the Toronto suburb of Mississauga, Ontario, manufactures interior and exterior doors, entry systems, and related products.

In a new round of consolidation in the property management industry, shopping mall giant Macerich Co. of Santa Monica, Calif., agreed to buy Wilmorite Properties Inc. for $2.3 billion. Macerich owns 80 properties, most of them in Arizona and California. Wilmorite's portfolio of malls stretches from Illinois to Connecticut. Wilmorite is based in Rochester, N.Y.

Dell Inc., a leading maker of personal computers, and officials of Forsyth County, N.C., announced agreement on a plan to build a 500,000 square foot assembly plant in a science/technology park in Winston-Salem. Construction is expected to begin next month, and the facility is projected to bring at least 1,500 new jobs to the area by 2010.

CORRECTION: Exelon Corp. and Public Service Enterprise Group told the Associated Press that its report earlier this week on their merger overstated the number of customers the combined utilities would have. The correct number is 7 million electricity customers and 2 million for natural gas, or half of the previously reported total.

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