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Saying, "elf had to react," the oil company at the center of a hostile takeover bid in France counterattacked with a $50.8 billion takeover offer of its own. Elf Aquitaine's unsolicited bid for TotalFina, if ultimately successful, would result in splitting their two operations into an oil company that would be the world's fourth-largest and a chemicals group. TotalFina, which offered just under $43 billion for Elf Aquitaine July 5, had no immediate comment.

In Europe's other big hostile takeover fight, the No. 3 British cable company, as expected, used a new infusion of cash to offer a reported $12.5 billion for its larger rival, Cable & Wireless Communications. NTL Inc. was able to make its bid after securing a $1 billion investment last week by France Telecom. Cable & Wireless Communications, in turn, said it now was negotiating only with NTL, upsetting four months of merger talks with Britain's other major cable provider, Telewest Communications.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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