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A $6.5 billion merger of WellPoint Inc., the largest US health insurer, and WellChoice Inc., the largest such insurer in New York State, could be announced by the end of the week, The New York Times reported. Citing unidentified executives, it said the deal would include cash and stock. The companies have been in negotiations for a month. WellPoint is based in Indianapolis and has 28 million members nationwide. WellChoice is the parent of Empire Blue Cross/Blue Shield and has an estimated 5 million subscribers in New York and New Jersey.

NBC Universal and the movie studio DreamWorks SKG have ended discussions on their potential $1 billion merger - at the latter's initiative, The Wall Street Journal reported. But it said both parties had become comfortable with the idea of a tie-up and that talks could resume eventually. Alternatively, DreamWorks, which was cofounded 11 years ago by legendary director Steven Spielberg, could seek another buyer, the report said. NBC Universal is a division of General Electric.

BASF, the world's largest chemical company, announced plans to increase its investment in Asia by $1.2 billion over the next 3-1/4 years in the hope that China will account for 10 percent of its sales. BASF already is a major investor in Asian countries, to the tune of almost $7 billion since 1990, and is a partner with state-owned Sinopec Corp. in the production of chemicals for the Chinese market. BASF is based in Ludwigshafen, Germany.

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DaimlerChrysler will announce the elimination of at least 5,000 jobs Wednesday in its Mercedes-Benz luxury-car division, the Bloomberg.com financial news service reported, citing "people familiar with the plan." A company spokesman wouldn't comment on the report, although two days of meetings were being held in suburban Detroit by DaimlerChrysler's board. One auto industry analyst told Bloomberg.com that the company's recent effort to cut costs and improve its profit picture "wasn't strict enough." The automaker has cut 40,000 jobs dating back to 2001. Still, the Mercedes-Benz division posted its first quarterly loss in 13 years between January and March and followed that with a 98 percent drop in profit for the second quarter.

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