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Continental Airlines Inc. announced Thursday that it will become the first major US carrier to purchase Boeing's new wide-body 7E7 airplanes, which promise greater fuel efficiency and more cargo space. Delivery of the 10 planes, valued at $1.3 billion before discounts, is scheduled for 2009. Continental anticipates the planes playing a key role in expanding its international business from its Houston and Newark, N.J., hubs. The new model is expected to face stiff competition from rival Airbus SAS, the French company that has overtaken Boeing as the world's No. 1 commercial plane maker and recently announced plans to build a competing model, the A350.

The US Agriculture Department said Wednesday it will reopen the American border to Canadian cattle after a mad-cow scare involving two animals closed the border for more than 19 months. Before the trade ban, the US bought about 70 percent of Canada's live cattle exports. Based on an "extensive review," US officials have identified Canada as a "minimal-risk region," opening the door to a limited resumption of imports, beginning March 7. The imported cattle will be subject to restrictions, including that they be slaughtered by the age of 30 months, which scientists say is too young to contract mad cow disease.

To rectify its $2.98 billion capital shortage, Fannie Mae, the nation's largest mortgage finance company, said Wednesday it has agreed to sell $5 billion in preferred stock. The stock offering, expected to end Thursday, will more than cover Fannie's capital shortfall. The lending giant will need to raise even more capital by mid-2005 to meet a new requirement imposed by the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight after the company violated accounting rules.

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Filipino food and beverage giant San Miguel Corp. agreed to buy National Foods Ltd., Australia's biggest dairy company and the manufacturer of Yoplait yogurt, for $1.4 billion, Bloomberg.com reported Thursday. The sale would give San Miguel, which makes nine out of 10 beers sold in the Philippines, access to Australia's $6.9 billion dairy industry.

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