Business & Finance

Trading in shares of Alitalia was suspended Tuesday on Italy's largest stock exchange amid expectations that the Rome government was about to OK a $730 million bailout to keep the struggling airline from going bankrupt. Alitalia's fate has hung in the balance for weeks as Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's aides have weighed options to try to save it. On June 11, Deloitte & Touche SpA, its auditor, warned of liquidation unless substantial cash was raised soon. Alitalia has lost money in three of the past four years as it has tried to compete with rivals that cater to budget-conscious fliers.

The largest owner of shopping malls in the US, Simon Property Group Inc. of Indianapolis, will buy Chelsea Property Group, The Wall Street Journal reported. The deal was valued at $3.5 billion in cash, stock, and assumption of debt. Chelsea, based in Roseland, N.J., specializes in outlet-mall ownership in the US and Japan. For months, beginning in late 2002, Simon attempted a hostile takeover of another major player in the mall industry, Taubman Centers Inc. of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., before eventually dropping it when Michigan's governor signed legislation that insulated Taubman against unsolicited offers.

Loews Cineplex Entertainment, the world's third-largest chain of movie theaters, will be sold to a consortium of investors for $1.5 billion, its owners announced late Monday. Onex Corp. of Toronto and its partner, Oaktree Capital Management, said the deal will include Loews assets in the US, Mexico, Spain, and South Korea, but not those in Canada. The buyers: Bain Capital and Spectrum Equity Investors, both of Boston, and the Carlyle Group of Washington.

The smallest division of the Vivendi Universal entertainment empire, VU Games, laid off 350 employees Monday - all of them in North America. The unit, which produces video games, posted a $112 million operating loss last year.

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