NATIONAL BRIEFING

NATIONAL BRIEFING

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Mergers & Acquisitions

Merrill Lynch, BlackRock in Talks

Merrill Lynch is in talks to trade its asset-management business for a large stake in money manager BlackRock, according to reports. The deal would transform BlackRock into one of Wall Street's top money managers, with an asset base of around $1 trillion, the Wall Street Journal and New York Times separately said. News of the discussions came just weeks after Morgan Stanley ended widely reported discussions for a stake in BlackRock and as other top-tier Wall Street firms look to smaller, more specialized competitors for alliances or acquisitions.

Maytag Acquisition Delayed

Whirlpool, maker of KitchenAid appliances, agreed to delay the completion of its acquisition of Maytag to give the Justice Department more time to review the transaction. The purchase will not be complete before March 30, both companies said.

Corporate governance

2 AIG Directors to Step Down

American International Group, the insurer that agreed to pay $1.64 billion to settle probes of accounting and sales practices last week, said William S. Cohen and Carla A. Hills won't seek reelection to the company's board.

Cohen has been on the board since 2004, and Hills joined in 1993. They will step down at AIG's annual meeting, the company said.

CONSUMER SAFETY

Ford Recalls Pickups

Ford recalled 211,432 2006 Ford F-150 and Lincoln Mark LT pickup trucks to repair a potentially faulty warning light for anti-lock brakes. A software error may prevent the warning light from going on, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said. The F-150 accounts for about 60 percent of F-series pickups, the biggest-selling vehicle line in the United States. No accidents related to the problem have been reported, a Ford spokeswoman said.

NHTSA also said Cooper Tire & Rubber will replace 288,348 tires sold under 14 brand names, including Trendsetter SE, Zeon 2XS and Discoverer S/T.

LEGAL

Investors Sue Coca-Cola Bottler

Coca-Cola Enterprises investors sued the world's largest soft-drink bottler, accusing the company of inflating profit and concealing sales declines in 2004. The suit also claims board member and former chief executive Summerfield K. Johnston Jr. engaged in insider trading. Johnston sold $172 million in shares shortly before the company revised its earnings forecast in July 2004, the complaint said. His $650,000 consulting contract with the company meant he was apprised of daily operations, according to the suit.

Investors say CCE falsely boosted sales through "channel stuffing," a practice by which customers are forced to take extra deliveries before a quarter ends to pump up sales and volume figures. The claims mirror those filed previously against parent Coca-Cola Co. That case is pending.


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© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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