Business & Finance

Cisco Systems was expected to announce a landmark deal to provide optical networking equipment upgrades to Bell South, the regional phone company, the Financial Times reported. The contract is valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars, the newspaper said, and marks Cisco's entry into a key market after repeated tries.

WestPoint Stevens Inc., the leading US maker of sheets and towels, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Sunday, The Wall Street Journal reported. The textile company based in West Point, Ga., is $1.8 billion in debt and is the latest of several in the industry to restructure amid intense pressure from low-priced imports. WestPoint produces, among others, the Martex, Utica, Ralph Lauren, Disney, Martha Stewart, and Joe Boxer brands.

Citigroup has overtaken Credit Suisse First Boston as the leading underwriter of junk bonds, which are experiencing a four-year high, reported. So far this year, Citigroup has earned an estimated $253 million in fees while arranging $10.1 billion in sales of the high-risk, high-yield bonds. Credit Suisse earned $232 million on $9.3 billion in such sales.

Struggling Equitable Life Assurance Society said it is seeking buyers for more of its $3.25 billion property portfolio. In its battle to remain solvent, the world's oldest mutual insurance carrier already has sold more than $800 million worth of property since the British Parliament in mid-2000 held it to an obligation to pay $2.16 billion in bonuses on guaranteed annuity-rate policies written decades ago when interest rates were high; the rates later dropped. The society recently admitted it would have collapsed if not for the sell-off of billions of dollars in stock last year. It is based in London and Aylesbury, England.

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