Business & Finance

The bidding war among the world's top three cruise ship operators took a new turn, with Miami-based Carnival Corp. sweetening its unsolicited offer for Britain's P&O Princess to $5.1 billion. Carnival also dropped some earlier conditions, such as demanding unrestricted access to Princess's financial data. The moves put Carnival on par with Royal Caribbean's already accepted offer for Princess, although that deal hit a potential snag earlier this week when the British government referred it to antitrust authorities on grounds that it could raise competition concerns. Analysts, however, say a Carnival-Princess merger likely would invite even greater regulatory scrutiny.

Sotheby's, the fine arts auction house, and eBay, the Internet sales and trading giant, announced a strategic alliance. Under the deal, Sotheby', which is due to open this summer, will become part of the eBay marketplace. In addition, eBay technology will allow online bidders to participate live in some traditional Sotheby's auctions in New York and London.

The pace of layoffs at electronics giant NEC will be speeded up this fiscal year, the company said in announcing a net loss - $2.26 billion - that is almost double its original projection. The Japanese manufacturer of personal computers and chips said last November it expected to lose $1.2 billion. NEC said it now will cut 14,000 jobs this year instead of the 4,000 called for in its original plan.

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