Business & Finance

The would-be partners in the $27 billion merger of Hughes Electronics and EchoStar Communications announced they've pulled the plug on their deal. They said Tuesday it could not be restructured in time to meet federal objections. Regulators blocked the merger in October on grounds that it would be anticompetitive, leaving communities not wired for cable TV with only the option of expensive satellite hookups. EchoStar, which operates Dish Network, will pay Hughes and its DirecTV subsidiary a $600 million breakup penalty.

The battle for control of Crédit Lyonnais took a new turn, with France's largest mutual bank, Crédit Agricole, announcing it has upped its stake from 12.2 percent to 17.4 percent. The move makes Crédit Agricole the largest shareholder, surpassing rival BNP Paribas, which has increased its stake in two stages since Nov. 24 to 16.6 percent and is seeking approval from regulators to raise that to 20 percent. The Financial Times said it has learned that Crédit Agricole is soliciting cash from the 48 mutual banks that make up its network to prepare for a full-blown takeover fight with BNP Paribas.

Schlumberger Ltd., one of the world's largest service providers to the oil and natural gas industries, announced it will lay off 3,300 workers and take a $3.17 billion fourth-quarter after-tax charge. The company said the charge largely is attributable to writedowns of two subsidiaries, Sema, an information-technology consultant, and WesternGeco, a specialist in marine and land-based seismology. Schlumberger is based jointly in New York and Paris.

Bank of America will acquire a 25 percent interest in Mexico's third-largest bank, Grupo Financero Santander Serfin, reported. It said Santander Central Hispano SA of Madrid, the Mexican bank's parent company, will receive $1.6 billion in cash in the deal.

Following the lead of other companies in the industry, Deutsche Telekom has put its phone-directory business on the auction block to try to raise urgently needed cash, the Financial Times reported. It said the German communications giant hopes to realize about $1 billion from the sale and that as many as 10 other assets may be offered as well. Qwest and Sprint of the US, Bell Canada, and KPN of the Netherlands also have sold their directory businesses recently, all to private equity partnerships.

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