Business & Finance

The directors of Circuit City Stores unanimously rejected a $3.25 billion unsolicited takeover bid from Highfields Capital Management LP, saying the offer wasn't in the best interest of shareholders. Some analysts suggested that the offer by the Boston hedge fund was made to goad the electronics retailer into making major structural changes. Circuit City has struggled to gain ground on rival Best Buy, which became the nation's largest chain of consumer electronics stores in the mid-1990s. Circuit City claims it has made significant strategic, operational, and financial adjustments over the last two years.

The world's largest mining company, BHP Billiton, appeared all but certain to become bigger still after offering $7.3 billion for rival WMC Resources. Both companies are based in Melbourne, Australia, and the bid is the highest in that nation's history. The move caused WMC's other suitor, Xstrata of Switzerland, to call a halt to its takeover effort at $6.5 billion, an amount that already has been rejected. Industry analysts, however, said it was possible that other miners - such as Rio Tinto Group, yet another Melbourne company, and Areva of France - also could be lured into the bidding. WMC controls almost 40 percent of the world's known uranium ore resources.

Qualcomm Inc., which makes technology for wireless communications products and services, approved a plan to double its buy-back of stock to $2 billion. The repurchase program replaces one that expired Feb. 9. Qualcomm is based in San Diego.

Tapping into the growing market for freshly prepared meals, Bakkavör Group said it has arranged to buy the majority stake in Geest PLC for just under $1 billion. Both companies supply chilled, packaged salads to Britain's largest grocery chains, and Geest also markets pasta and stir-fry dishes, soups, breads, and premium desserts. Geest is based in Peterborough, England. Bakkavör, a Reykjavík, Iceland, company, already owns 20 percent of Geest.

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