Business & Finance

Ratcheting up the pressure in its bid to create the world's biggest bank, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group of Japan said its $29 billion offer for UFJ Holdings Inc. would be good until next June. The unsolicited bid was extended Aug. 24 and originally was to have expired last Friday. Rival Mitsubishi Tokyo Financial Group has an agreement in principle to acquire UFJ and already has contributed $6.3 billion in emergency cash to its future partner. But other terms of the deal have yet to be announced publicly and it is not expected to be completed for another 12 months. Sumitomo Mitsui also has offered a $6.3 billion infusion of cash. A merger with either suitor would make the combined company larger than Citigroup of the US, the current world leader.

Noranda Inc., a leading producer of copper, nickel, aluminum, and precious metals, said it has granted exclusive permission for merger negotiations to the No. 1 mining company in China. An eventual deal - valued at about $5.5 billion - would rank among the largest acquisitions of foreign companies by any in the communist nation. Analysts said the interest on the part of China Minmetals stems from a growing demand for raw materials in that country's rapidly expanding economy. Noranda is based in Toronto.

Ocean Spray Inc., the nation's top seller of bottled juices, ended a bitter rivalry with Northland Cranberries Inc. by announcing Friday that it will buy all of the latter's processing operations and inventory of frozen, unprocessed cranberries. The deal was valued at $28 million and ends Northland's antitrust suit against Ocean Spray. Last year, Northland tried to buy Ocean Spray's juice business for $800 million but was rejected, resulting in an accusation that it was trying to sow dissension among Ocean Spray's growers. The deal comes as the industry emerges from a slump caused by decreasing demand and a glut of harvested fruit. Northland is based in Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.; Ocean Spray in Lakeville, Mass.,

Toyota announced it will double the size of it engine plant in Huntsville, Ala., and add 300 jobs by 2006. The plant makes V8 engines for the company's Tundra and Sequoia sport-utility vehicles.

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