Business & Finance

There are new indications that Qwest Communications hasn't yet accepted defeat in its competition with Verizon for control of MCI Inc. The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that Qwest and its bankers have talked informally with some of MCI's largest shareholders and found enough interest in its proposal to think that a defeat of the Verizon deal is possible when the matter is put to a vote next month or in early July. For that to happen, the report said, a new bid by Qwest would have to have less stock risk than was in the $9.74 billion it took off the table last week when MCI chose Verizon's $8.44 billion. Two major MCI investors, the Journal said, are urging Qwest to reconsider its withdrawal.

General Electric was scheduled to announce a major green initiative Monday that calls for doubling its research, development, and marketing expenditures in such areas as coal-fired power plants, hybrid diesel/electric locomotives, and a silicon with agricultural applications. The latter would allow farmers to use less water and pesticide when spraying their fields. The Wall Street Journal said GE also hopes to double its sales of environmentally friendly products to $20 billion by 2010.

After an absence of 19 years, Barclays PLC returned to South Africa, buying control of that country's No. 1 mortgage lender, Absa Group Ltd., for $5.4 billion. Barclays, the third-largest bank in Britain, was among the multinational companies that pulled out of South Africa in the 1980s amid the international furor over apartheid.

In a deal valued at $1.1 billion, the biggest investor in China's financial services sector, HSBC Holdings, said it will double its stake in Ping An Insurance Co. Ping An is second in size only to China Life Insurance Co., and the two share 50 percent of the market there, Bloomberg.com reported. HSBC is based in London.

Home Depot, the world's No. 1 home-improvement retailer, may or may not be pursuing a takeover of its European counterpart, Kingfisher PLC, but the latter was denying a published report to that effect. A spokesman for Kingfisher, which is based in London, called the report in The Mail on Sunday (London) "just plain wrong," although he acknowledged that executives of the companies had met April 29. Home Depot declined to comment. Kingfisher operates more than 550 do-it-yourself centers across Europe and Turkey and its B&Q subsidiary has 20 stores in China.

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