Business & Finance

Negotiations on a merger that would have further consolidated the cellphone service industry in Europe collapsed over the weekend, when Royal KPN of the Netherlands and Britain's mmO2 PLC could not agree on terms. At stake for KPN was increasing its share of the large and lucrative German market, where it ranks a distant third behind Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone. mmO2's strength has been growing steadily in Germany, even though it still is the smallest of four service providers there. A merger would have given the combined company a 21 percent share, to Deutsche Telekom's 41 percent and Vodafone's 38 percent. mmO2 is the new name of British Telecommunications Wireless. Over the past three years, KPN also has attempted to merge with Spain's Telefonica and with Belgacom of Belgium, without success.

Another round of layoffs is imminent at Akzo Nobel, a leading maker of pharmaceuticals and chemicals, the company confirmed Friday. Citing declining demand, a senior executive said Akzo already has reduced production at a pharmaceuticals plant in Scotland, will scale back operations at two others in the Netherlands, and will close a plant in Mexico City. He put the combined job cuts at 350, on top of 4,000 employees who were laid off last year. Akzo Nobel is based in the Dutch city of Arnhem.

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