Business & Finance

EMI Group is in discussions with Time Warner on acquiring its Warner Music division for a reported $1.6 billion, reports said, although an EMI spokesman stressed that they are at a "very preliminary stage." If agreed, an eventual deal would create the world's second-largest music company, although it would need shareholder and regulatory approval. Three years ago, opposition by European Union regulators quashed their hopes to form a joint venture. EMI is based in London.

A subsidiary of Schlumberger Ltd. will be sold to Atos Origin SA for $1.5 billion in a deal that analysts said should thrust the buyer into the "big leagues" of computing services providers. In acquiring rival Schlumberger-Sema, Atos hopes to enhance its prospects against such US competitors as Electric Data Systems Corp. and Accenture Ltd. Schlumberger, best known as one of the world's largest oilfield-services companies, paid $5.2 billion for Sema in May 2001, but since then has written off $2.8 billion on the investment and has been seeking to cut the unit's expenses. Atos and Schlumberger both are French, although the latter also maintains a headquarters in New York.

In their first major effort in years to wipe the slate clean, China's Big Four state-owned banks will offer $6 billion worth of nonperforming loans for sale by year's end, the Financial Times reported. It said the bad loans already are being marketed to prospective buyers in the US and Japan. In previous sales of the type, buyers have picked up such loans for as little as 8 percent of their face value and resold them at a profit, the Financial Times said. The bad-loan portfolios are keeping the Bank of China, China Construction Bank, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, and Agricultural Bank from being listed on stock markets, the report said.

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