Business & Finance

Axel Springer AG, Germany's largest newspaper publisher, said it will buy the country's biggest television company, ProSiebenSat.1 Media AG, from an investor group led by US billionaire Haim Saban for $3.05 billion. The deal, announced Friday in Munich, is intended to make Alex Springer a "serious challenger" to media titan Bertelsmann AG, the owner of Stern Magazine and the RTL television channel, which has a market share of about 38 percent. The long-rumored deal will give it the ability to package ProSiebenSat.1's popular programming, including the American hit series "Desperate Housewives," with its top-selling national Bild tabloid and other magazines to generate more ad revenue.

A unit of British banking giant HSBC Holdings PLC snapped up credit-card issuer Metris Cos. Inc., which is based in Minnetonka, Minn., late last week for $1.59 billion in cash, taking one more stand-alone credit-card issuer off the market. HSBC Finance Corp. of Prospect Heights, Ill., is already the sixth-largest US issuer of MasterCard and Visa credit cards; Metris is the 11th-largest, with $5.9 billion in managed receivables. In other recent credit card-related deals, Bank of America Corp. bought MBNA Corp. for $35 billion and Washington Mutual paid $6.45 for card issuer Providian Financial Corp.

The Greek government agreed to sell Olympic Airlines, the country's unprofitable national carrier, to the private New York-based investors group Olympic Investors-York Capital for $158 million, the finance ministry said on Friday. The agreement requires European Commission approval and sources close to the deal told Reuters that many of the exact arrangements for a sale still had to be worked out. The carrier has been under European Union scrutiny for several years because of government subsidies paid to keep the airline flying. Shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis founded the company.

Betty Vinson, WorldCom's former director of corporate reporting, was sentenced Friday in New York to five months in prison and five months of house arrest for making fraudulent entries in the company's books. US District Judge Barbara Jones noted Vinson was among the lowest-ranking members of the conspiracy that led to the $11 billion fraud that sank the telecommunications giant, which has emerged from bankruptcy as MCI Inc.

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