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Business | Sprint and Nextel announce $35 billion merger

Issue: "Lavelle's wonderful life," Dec. 25, 2004

Just a few years ago, mobile phone users could choose from close to 10 major providers. But with a likely merger between Sprint and Nextel, the wireless industry will have its own version of the "big three."

According to published reports, Kansas City-based Sprint has tentatively agreed to buy Nextel for $35 billion. The merger would create the third-largest wireless provider in the nation with nearly 40 million customers. But The New York Times reports that Verizon Wireless may offer to buy Sprint.

Verizon Wireless is currently the second-largest mobile phone provider with 42 million customers. The industry leader is Cingular Wireless, which recently acquired AT&T Wireless for $41 billion and now has more than 46 million subscribers.

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If the Sprint-Nextel deal closes, the combined headquarters would likely move to Nextel's home office in Reston, Va. But the majority of the company's combined 77,000 employees would be based at Sprint's sprawling corporate campus in Kansas City.

It's not clear at this point if any jobs would be cut if the merger occurs, but losses wouldn't come as a surprise. Cingular recently announced it plans to cut nearly 10 percent of its work force over the next 12 to 18 months.

Indian summer

While economists keep a watchful eye on key reports about the U.S. economy in the coming weeks, the news from overseas shows signs of continued growth in countries such as Germany, China, and India.

In Berlin, the government of Germany, Europe's largest economy, predicts growth of 1.8 percent this year and 1.7 percent next year. In Beijing, China's leaders pledged to hold down spending, marking a firm turn away from the government's former policy of heavy spending on highway building and other public projects. The Chinese economy is forecast to grow by a blistering 9 percent this year-far above the official target of 7 percent.

And in New Delhi, Indian government officials are predicting continued annual growth of 7 percent over the decade and are hoping to continue to attract foreign investment. So far this year, foreign funds have poured a record $7 billion into Indian stocks and bonds. That helped the Indian stock market hit an all-time high earlier this month. India's central bank expects growth of between 6 percent and 6.5 percent this year, down from a 15-year high of 8.2 percent in 2003.

Balance sheet

•Colgate-Palmolive Co., which makes consumer products including Ajax detergent and Irish Spring soap, plans to cut its work force by about 4,400 jobs as part of a restructuring plan aimed at boosting its sales and profits around the world.

•Ford Motor Co. is recalling about 474,000 Ford Escape sport utility vehicles worldwide because of an accelerator problem that can cause the engine to race. Meanwhile, Daimler-Chrysler is recalling 600,000 Durango SUVs and Dakota pickups because of vehicle suspension concerns.

•Honeywell International Inc. is interested in buying British industrial holding company Novar PLC for $1.5 billion. According to The Wall Street Journal, Honeywell is interested in Novar's building-security and fire-alarm business.

•Guidant Corp.'s top executives could earn more than $560 million if Johnson & Johnson succeeds in its reported bid to acquire the Indianapolis-based medical device maker. Spun off by Eli Lilly and Co. in 1994, Guidant capitalized on breakthroughs in heart stents and pacemaker-defibrillator technology to gross $3.7 billion in sales last year.

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