Business & Finance

Adobe Systems acquired rival software developer Macromedia in a stock-swap valued at $3.4 billion. The Wall Street Journal, citing analysts, said the merger sets the stage for an anticipated showdown with Microsoft, which is bracketed by the two companies in the website design market. Adobe, based in San Jose, Calif., makes the popular Acrobat and Photoshop programs, and its Adobe Reader comes installed on most personal computers. Macromedia, whose headquarters are in San Francisco, has developed Flash, Dreamweaver, and Shockwave.

The Nasdaq Stock Market was expected to announce the purchase of Instinet Group, the electronic trading subsidiary of Reuters news service, as the Monitor went to press. Reports said the deal would be worth between $1.8 billion and $2.5 billion. Nasdaq, which reportedly seeks to regain the order flow it lost to electronic communications networks in the 1990s, may only be interested in Instinet's electronic-trading platform, and not its brokerage unit, analysts told The Wall Street Journal's online edition Sunday. Reuters, the world's largest international news agency, said last year it was considering selling Instinet to concentrate on its main business.

R.R. Donnelley & Sons, one of the world's largest printing companies, agreed to acquire Astron Group, a move that will expand its reach into Europe, reports said. The purchase price: just under $1 billion. Astron, privately owned and based in Huntingdon, England, provides printing, mailing, and marketing services and had been considering an initial public offering before the deal with Donnelly. The latter is based in Chicago.

Over strong local objections, a proposal to legalize casino gambling was OK'd by the government of Singapore, virtually guaranteeing construction of two resorts aimed at doubling the influx of tourists. The city-state already has proposals in hand from almost every major gaming corporation in the world for casinos that would serve as the anchors of theme park/convention center/shopping complexes with a combined value of $3 billion. Doors are expected to open to the public in 2009. Analysts said the government's decision also could open the way for similar approvals in Thailand, India, Taiwan, and Japan.

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