Business & Finance

Circuit City Stores Inc., which has struggled with inconsistent sales of electronics, computers, and software, became the target of an unsolicited $3.25 billion buyout effort Tuesday by one of its largest shareholders. Highfields Capital Management LP of Boston, a private equity firm, already owns 6.7 percent of the company. Circuit City is the nation's second-largest electronics retailer. But its market share has slipped in the face of competition from No. 1 Best Buy and from high-volume discount retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores.

Royal Dutch/Shell and Total SA, two of the world's largest energy producers, won 20-year contracts to supply $20 billion worth of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to South Korea. The pacts take effect in 2008 as an accord with Indonesia's PT Arun expires. They were negotiated at a time when new supplies coming onto the market from Australia and Malaysia have driven down prices. Korea Gas Corp., the buyer, is the world's largest importer of LNG.

Seeking to capitalize on high prices for crude, the Norwegian government said it will sell another chunk of Statoil ASA, the nation's largest energy company. The partial privatization will be the second in eight months. The 5.4 percent stake is worth $1.96 billion, with proceeds earmarked for the fund that provides for Norwegians' health- care and pension costs. The sell-off will leave the government with 71.7 percent ownership of Statoil. By law, it may not drop below 66 percent.

Casinos operated by Indian tribes pulled in $18.5 billion in revenues last year - a 10 percent increase over 2003 and an amount that rivals the earnings of the entire Nevada gambling industry, the National Indian Gaming Association reported Tuesday. In the continental US, 223 of 341 recognized tribes have built casinos since Congress legalized the practice in 1988. Tribal leaders say the proceeds have increased at a double-digit pace for more than a decade, helping to lift reservations out of poverty. The casinos benefit from not having to pay state or local taxes.

Avon Products, the cosmetics company, is in negotiations with potential partners as it explores the idea of adding financial services to its range of products, the Financial Times reported. Citing a senior executive, it said the company expects to conduct marketing trials next year in Britain, targeting female customers with offers that may include life and property insurance and credit cards.

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