Business & Finance

A formal announcement was expected Monday that Apple Computer would end its strained relationship with chip supplier IBM and switch to rival Intel. The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple chief Steve Jobs would explain the move in an address to software developers in San Francisco. He was expected to indicate that the transition will begin with lower-end computers next year despite the fact that it will require Apple programmers to rewrite the company's software to adapt to the new microprocessor. For years, IBM has resisted Jobs's wish that it expand the variety of chips it produces for Apple Macintosh computers. Intel already controls more than 80 percent of the market in chips for personal computers.

Washington Mutual Inc. and Providian Financial Corp. said they'll join forces in a $6.45 billion cash and stock deal. Both have maintained a focus on middle-market consumers. Washington Mutual is based in Seattle. Providian will continue to operate from its San Francisco headquarters.

In its first major financial move since voters rejected the proposed European Union Constitution last week, the government of France announced it will sell $5.5 billion worth of stock in France Telecom, the former phone monopoly. The sale will lower the government's stake in the company to 33 percent.

ProLogis, a real estate investment trust, has agreed to buy rival Catellus Development Corp. for $3.6 billion in a cash and stock deal that will create the world's largest network of warehouses and distribution services. ProLogis is based in Aurora, Colo.; Catellus in San Francisco. The combined company will own 2,250 facilities with 350 million square feet in North America, Asia, and Europe.

A new plan by energy giant National Grid to return $3.6 billion to shareholders will leave them with no net gain in their investment, the utility said. The British company, which also has extensive holdings in the US, will distribute the cash on a one-time basis in August, reducing each investor's equity proportionately, officials said.

Pharmaceutical giant Bristol-Myers Squibb appeared ready to take another step in resolving questionable accounting practices. According to the websites of The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, the company is expected to avoid potential criminal charges by agreeing to a $300 million settlement and certain other terms with the Justice Department. This would occur after last year's $150 million accounting-fraud settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

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