Business & Finance

SBC Communications, the nation's No. 2 local phone service provider, is again discussing the takeover of AT&T, its former parent, for at least $15 billion, published reports said. Such a deal would fuse SBC, which serves 36 million households in 13 states, with what remains of "Ma Bell," the iconic company that was broken into smaller entities - one them SBC - by government order 21 years ago. SBC also has been in talks with other companies, among them MCI, in recent months, but AT&T is attractive because of its corporate clientele, analysts told The Wall Street Journal. The two had been meeting about a possible merger late last year, but the talks broke off.

Boeing and Airbus, fierce rivals in the manufacture of passenger jets, both have chalked up new orders. Boeing said it has sold six 777-200ER planes to Thai Airways with a book value of $1.1 billion. Airbus announced a deal to build 20 A330 widebody jets, with a catalog value of $2.86 billion, for Air China. Sales to major airlines, however, usually involve discounts.

In a deal valued at $2.6 billion, fast-moving Santander Central Hispano SA of Spain disposed of its remaining stake in Royal Bank of Scotland Group, ending their 16-year partnership. The shares went to private investors, reported. Last September, Santander began the disposal, selling a similarly sized chunk in the same fashion in preparation for its $15 billion takeover two months later of Abbey National PLC, Britain's sixth-largest bank.

Energy Transfer Partners, a leading operator of natural gas pipelines said it will pay $1 billion for controlling interest in Houston Pipe Line Co. The buyer's facilities are concentrated in Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. Houston Pipe Line, a subsidiary of American Electric Power Co. of Columbus, Ohio, serves the east Texas market. Energy Transfer Partners is based in Tulsa, Okla.

Dean Foods Co. announced it will spin off its specialty products division to shareholders, creating a stand-alone entity with 1,700 employees and annual sales of more than $700 million. It will supply nondairy creamers, egg substitutes, cheese sauces, dressings, puddings, and other items to the foodservice and retail industries. Sam Reed, the former chief of Keebler Co., the baker of cookies and crackers, was hired to head the unit, a news release said. Dean Foods is based in Dallas.

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