Business & Finance

In another blow to troubled Fannie Mae, the government-sponsored mortgage lender was advised by the Securities and Exchange Commission to restate earnings for the period 2001 to mid-2004 because of "accounting practices that did not comply in material respects with ... requirements." Analysts said the net loss in question could be as much as $9 billion and suggested that the SEC's advisory could wipe out whatever gains the company has made in restoring investor confidence after first being accused of accounting errors in September. Fannie Mae finances one in every five home loans in the US.

In a new wave of merger announcements:

• Healthcare products giant Johnson & Johnson confirmed reports Wednesday that it will acquire Guidant Corp. of Indianapolis for $25.4 billion. Guidant is a world leader in making cardiac pacemakers and defibrillators.

• Also confirming published reports, Symantec Corp., a leader in the field of security software with its Norton antivirus program, said it has agreed to buy Veritas Corp., the world's second-largest maker of data storage software, for $13.5 billion. Symantec is based in Cupertino, Calif.; Veritas in Mountain View, Calif.

• United Technologies, the Hartford, Conn., defense contractor and engineering conglomerate, will pay $2.8 billion for Kidde PLC, one of the top makers of fire extinguishers, the companies said. Kidde is based in Slough, England.

• In a deal valued at $1.8 billion, building materials distributor Travis Perkins PLC said it will buy Britain's No. 2 chain of do-it-yourself supply stores, Focus Wickes Ltd. The buyer is based in Northampton, England. Focus Wickes's headquarters are in Cheshire, England.

• CSM NV, one of the world's leading suppliers of ingredients to the baking and food-processing industries, announced that it has sold its candy business to the London private equity group CVC Capital Partners for $1.14 billion. CSM is based in Diemen, the Netherlands.

• Travel industry giant Cendant Corp. plans to buy a pair of British companies, Gullivers Travel Associates and Octopus Travel Group, for $1.1 billion, reported. Gulliver is a wholesaler of tour packages; Octopus is an online provider of lodging and destination services. Cendant, based in New York, owns 6,400 hotels and the Avis and Budget rental car companies.

Banking giant ABN Amro will cut 2,850 more jobs from its global workforce and post a $1.1 billion charge to help offset a drop in operating profits, it announced. Most of the layoffs will come in the Netherlands, its base, but about 170 will affect employees in the US. The company laid off 1,500 Americans last year.

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