Business & Finance

BellSouth and the Communications Workers of America tentatively agreed to a new five-year contract Saturday, hours before the existing pact for about 45,000 workers was to expire. Union members still must ratify the deal, which resolves differences concerning healthcare coverage and calls for a 10.5 percent pay increase over the term of the contract. BellSouth, based in Atlanta, is the nation's third-largest local telephone company.

In a deal valued at $5.1 billion, General Property Trust (GPT) of Australia agreed to be acquired by Lend Lease Corp., ending the latter's three-month pursuit. Both companies are based in Sydney, and Lend Lease manages GPT's portfolio of hotels, office towers, and shopping malls. Lend Lease also owns Bovis, the construction company that cleared the World Trade Center site in New York following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Insurance industry giant Axa offered $2.2 billion for the 48 percent of its Asian subsidiary that it doesn't already own, arguing that the latter isn't big enough to handle the available expansion opportunities in the region. The cash and stock bid for Axa Asia Pacific Holdings Ltd. of Melbourne, Australia, follows the lead of the world's biggest insurer, American International Group (AIG), in expanding across Asia. In fact, Axa Asia has been losing market share to AIG, especially in Hong Kong, reported. Axa is based in Paris.

A record $1.17 billion was raised by Tata Consultancy Services Ltd., India's No. 1 software developer, which had to turn away buyers in last week's initial public offering, reported. The sale was the largest to date by an Indian company not owned by the government. Tata's client base includes such multinational giants as Citigroup, General Motors, and Ford Motor Co.

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