Business & Finance

In a deal valued at $3.5 billion, Fresenius Medical Care AG agreed to buy Renal Care Group of Nashville, Tenn. If regulators in the US and Europe approve, the acquisition will propel Fresenius back into the lead in the kidney treatment industry. Fresenius, of Bad Homburg, Germany, fell behind DaVita Inc. of El Segundo, Calif., late last year when the latter bought the US clinics of Sweden's Gambro AB.

American Tower Corp., which leases antenna access to wireless carriers and broadcasters, agreed to buy rival SpectraSite Inc. for $3.1 billion in stock. The merger will give the combined company 22,600 communications sites in the US, Brazil, and Mexico. American Tower is based in Boston; SpectraSite in Cary, N.C.

Dell Inc., the world's No. 1 direct-sale computer company, announced plans to open a sales and support center in Halle, Germany. The facility will employ 300 people by year's end and as many as 750 within five years. Dell said it considers Germany one of its most important markets and chose Halle, in the economically depressed and formerly communist eastern half of the country, because of its large pool of eager people with technical skills.

In one of the largest waves of layoffs in months:

• Waterford Wedgewood, the famous maker of fine china and crystal, announced the closure of its plant in Dungarvan, Ireland, and said it will cut 1,800 jobs companywide.

• Giant Food, a supermarket chain serving the mid- Atlantic states, said it will close its Landover, Md., headquarters and lay off 500 employees as it merges with Stop & Shop Supermarket Co., of Quincy, Mass.

• VF Corp., the maker of Lee and Wrangler jeans, will close its Wilson, N.C., plant and transfer those operations to low-wage "locations outside the US," a spokesman said. The move will cost 445 employees their jobs.

• Sara Lee Corp. said it will offer a package of incentives in hopes of encouraging 350 employees in its apparel division to give up their jobs. The unit, whose brands include Champion sportswear and Bali, Playtex, and L'eggs, is to be spun off as an independent company next spring.

• All 250 employees of telecommunications equipment manufacturer L.M. Ericsson in San Diego will lose their jobs over the next nine months as the company phases out its operations there. Ericsson is based in Stockholm.

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