Business & Finance

Vivendi Universal's executives Tuesday are expected to recommend that the company narrow the list of suitors for its US entertainment properties to perhaps one. The Wall Street Journal reported that General Electric wrote to Vivendi over the weekend, proposing an all-stock merger of its NBC-TV network with the latter's motion picture studio and cable-TV channels. GE would control the new company, but the French group would have a minority stake, which it then could sell at intervals, perhaps back to its new partner. According to sources familiar with the situation, that proposal is believed to be favored over buyout plans submitted by Liberty Media Corp., by Viacom Inc., and by a group of bidders led by investor Edgar Bronfman Jr. But Vivendi has said it reserves the option to try an initial public offering for the entire package of US assets - also including theme parks - if none of the offers is deemed satisfactory.

MCI, the renamed WorldCom, will replace stock options with shares as a form of employee compensation when the telecommunications giant emerges from its record bankruptcy, the financial news service reported. The change is among several reforms due to be announced shortly by MCI's court-appointed monitor. Federal regulators are tightening rules on option awards amid complaints that they can encourage executives to inflate financial results, as WorldCom's did.

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