Business & Finance

The first official results show Hewlett-Packard shareholders narrowly approved their company's $20 billion acquisition of Compaq Computer Corp., by a 51.4 percent to 48.6 percent margin. H-P chief executive Carly Fiorina said she hoped to complete the deal early next month. But a spokesman for its leading opponent, dissident director Walter Hewlett, vowed "We will examine and challenge" the count. If approved, the H-P/Compaq merger would be the biggest in technology-industry history.

Media magnate Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. became the latest major client to drop Arthur Andersen LLP, as the Chicago-based auditor struggles to survive fallout from the Enron collapse. News Corp. appointed Ernst & Young as its independent auditor. Meanwhile, sources at another rival, KPMG, said it may acquire all or parts of Andersen practices in nine US cities, up from the six announced earlier this month. In addition, Andersen's British division said it would cut 1,500 jobs – 30 percent of its workforce – prior to a merger with yet another of the "Big Five," Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu.

Vivendi, the global multimedia giant, sold $1.1 billion worth of assets in a move to help ease its heavy debt. The French company announced its business and health magazines divisions have been bought by a consortium of investment funds, Cinven, the Carlyle Group, and Apax Partners. Vivendi's debt, about $17 billion, and the recent direction of its business operations have even aroused the concerns of candidates on the campaign trail for Sunday's French presidential election.

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