Business & Finance

Executives of two top mutual funds apparently have bowed to the pressure of a widening scandal over alleged improper trades and are giving up their posts, published reports said. The Boston Globe and Boston Herald said Putnam Investments chief Lawrence Lasser would resign as public pension systems continued canceling their accounts with the firm. Putnam was charged with securities fraud last week by state authorities in Massachusetts. Meanwhile, Richard Strong resigned Sunday as chairman of Strong Mutual Funds after New York's attorney general threatened to bring charges against him. Strong, who remains chairman and chief executive officer of parent company Strong Capital Management, maintains his quick-trade activities did not harm the firm's mutual funds and has offered to reimburse any losses.

Morgan Stanley, the investment banking giant, and a consortium of partners won agreement in principle to buy Canary Wharf PLC, the developer of of some of London's most valuable real estate. The reported price: $2.55 billion in cash and stock. Canary Wharf, on the site of shipping docks that once received imports from the Canary Islands, opened in 1991 and comprises 86 acres of office towers, retail space, restaurants, pubs, conference facilities, and mass-transit stations.

Through a subsidiary, General Electric offered $1.7 billion for Sophia SA, the owner-operator of prime real estate in Paris and its suburbs. The bid by GE Real Estate Investissement France also involves assumption of $2.7 billion in debt and would leave Sophia's management ranks intact. A Sophia spokesman said his company had no comment on the new bid. It already is considering a lower offer from Société Foncière Lyonnaise, one of France's leading property management companies.

A joint venture to create the world's largest builder and distributor of TV sets and DVD players was announced by Thompson SA of France and China's TCL International Holdings Ltd. Between them, the companies sell $3.5 billion worth of video products a year. Thompson, based in Paris, markets sets under its own name in Europe and under the RCA brand in the US. TCL builds or sells TV sets under the Magnavox and Philips brands. Financial details of their deal were not announced, but Thompson will contribute all of its assembly plants in Mexico, Thailand, and Poland, as well as its research centers. TCL's participation will involve factories in China, Vietnam, and Germany, plus its sales network.

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