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The biggest merger in the oil industry since the late 1990s was announced by ChevronTexaco, which said it will acquire Unocal Corp. for $18 billion in cash, stock, and assumption of debt. Unocal, based in El Segundo, Calif., long has been considered a prime takeover target. Before the announcement Monday, it also had been discussing merger terms with Italian oil giant Eni. A state-owned Chinese producer, CNOOC, apparently was the first potential buyer to express interest, although it later dropped out of the running. Unocal, formerly known as Union Oil Company of California, explores for and produces oil and natural gas and markets geothermal energy. Many of its assets are in Asia. In the late 1990s, it was in the headlines because of a proposed gas pipeline project that would have been built across Afghanistan. But that was abandoned when the US bombed Al Qaeda terrorist training camps there. In the largest previous oil industry deal, Exxon acquired Mobil in 1999 for a reported $82 billion. A year earlier, BP bought Amoco for $49 billion.

In a deal valued at $1.4 billion, two US private equity groups bought controlling interest in TIM Hellas Telecommunications SA, the third-largest cellphone service provider in Greece. Apax Partners of New York and Texas Pacific Group of Fort Worth, Texas, acquired 81 percent of the company's stock from Telecom Italia and will attempt to buy the remaining 19 percent from TIM Hellas's minority shareholders, Bloomberg.com reported.

The lifting of a decades-long quota on textile imports has led to a flood of Chinese goods onto the US market, newly released Commerce Department data show. In the first three months of the year, China shipped 84.8 million knitted cotton shirts to the US, an increase of 1,258 percent over the same period last year. Cotton trousers accounted for an increase of 1,521 percent. But while the Chinese imports mean lower prices for US consumers, they also have resulted in the closure of 14 textile plants in five states, with an accompanying loss of 17,200 jobs. The US textile industry, which fought the 10-year phaseout of the quotas Jan. 1, is preparing new requests for reimposing them while lobbying the Bush administration to file complaints against Chinese dumping with the World Trade Organization. The administration has yet to divulge what its plans are. New Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said last week, "We will be driven by the facts in the case."

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