News In Brief

Published reports that mobile phone giants Bell Atlantic and Vodafone Airtouch Plc. were negotiating over a possible linkup of their US operations were confirmed by the latter in London. Vodafone Airtouch, the result of a $62 billion January merger, is the industry's largest and offers service in 25 Western states. Bell Atlantic covers 24 Eastern states. A merger or joint venture would give Vodafone access to more than 20 million US customers and the clout to challenge heavyweights AT&T and Sprint head on.

Doubters quickly offered reasons why the $17.3 billion sale of British life-insurance and investment-fund company Legal & General Plc. to National Westminster Bank (NatWest) might not produce the results hoped for by the buyer. Analysts said the concept of banking-insurance company mergers, although well-established on the European continent, has been slow to catch on in Britain. They also questioned whether NatWest overpaid for its new acquisition. The deal is the second of its kind in the United Kingdom in three months. In June, Lloyds TSB announced it was paying $11 billion for the pension-fund/life insurance carrier Scottish Widows Group.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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