Business & Finance

An announcement is expected as soon as Monday on whether the largest bank in Spain, Santander Central Hispano SA, will open a possible bidding war for Britain's Abbey National PLC. Without identifying its source, the Financial Times reported Saturday that Santander probably would offer up to $16.1 billion, which - if accepted - would constitute the largest banking takeover in Europe in more than a year. Meanwhile, the Independent on Sunday, another British newspaper, reported that Citigroup of the US was preparing to offer $15.5 billion for Abbey National, and the Sunday Telegraph - also without citing sources - said Wachovia Corp. of the US and Britain's HSBC Bank and HBOS PLC "may" join the bidding.

Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. won a $2.4 billion order to build 28 twin-engine helicopters for Canada's Defense Ministry, the latter announced Friday. Sikorsky said they will be built at its Bridgeport, Conn., assembly plant. Sikorsky is a division of United Technologies Corp. of Hartford, Conn.

Blackstone Group, a leading private equity firm, entered a definitive agreement to buy a majority interest in Vanguard Health Systems for approximately $1.75 billion, the latter said Friday. Vanguard, based in Nashville, Tenn., owns and operates 16 acute-care hospitals and complementary healthcare facilities or services in Illinois, Arizona, California, and Texas. Vanguard management and Morgan Stanley Capital Partners will retain a 30 percent state in Vanguard.

Travelers Property Casualty Corp., the company created by last year's merger of the St. Paul Cos. and Travelers Property Casualty Corp., announced late last week that it is cutting 3,000 jobs. A major downsizing was expected since executives of the second-largest US insurance company had promised cost-savings to investors when the $17.9 billion merger was completed in April.

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