Business & Finance

USA Networks agreed to sell its entertainment assets to the French media giant Vivendi for $10.3 billion, giving the latter a long-sought outlet for distributing its motion pictures and TV programming in the US and a comparable footing with rival AOL Time Warner. USA Networks has a subscriber base of about 85 million households. Its chief, Barry Diller, will serve as chairman of the new combined company, to be named Vivendi Universal Entertainment.

In a merger valued at $16 billion, biotech giant Amgen Inc. said it will buy smaller rival Immunex Corp. Immunex, based in Seattle, is a world leader in the production of arthritis medication. If shareholders and regulators OK the cash-and-stock deal, it would give Thousand Oaks, Calif.-based Amgen more than 2-1/2 times the market capitalization of the industry's No. 2 company, Genentech Inc.

Enron applied for the necessary approvals to auction off a majority of its energy-trading business, the Financial Times reported. The newspaper said the investment banks UBS Warburg and Citigroup have expressed interest in acquiring the business, although neither has submitted a firm bid so far. The auction, if OK'd by bankruptcy court, would be held Jan. 10, the report said.

P&O Princess Cruises rejected a $4.7 billion takeover bid by rival Carnival Corp., arguing that its planned merger with Royal Caribbean Ltd. was a more attractive option for shareholders and would encounter less resistance from regulators. Carnival said its pursuit now would turn hostile, bypassing P&O's board and appealing directly to the stockholders. A P&O-Royal Caribbean merger, agreed to last month, would surpass Carnival as the world's largest cruise-ship operator.

Nine hundred jobs, most of them in the US, have been cut by BBA Group PLC, a leading British service provider and maker of specialty materials for the aviation industry, the company said.

Online health information provider Dr. Koop LifeCare Corp. announced it will file for bankruptcy, pay down its bills as much as possible after liquidating assets, and then cease operations. The Santa Monica, Calif., company founded by former high-profile US Surgeon General C. Everett Koop cited an inability to obtain sufficient debt or equity financing. At its peak during the 1999 Internet boom, shares in traded as high as $45.

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