Coca-Cola bought ads in France to try to restore consumer confidence as the European Commission said it will join inspections because it's unsatisfied with information from Coke about illnesses among some drinkers of its products. Coke booked full pages in newspapers to claim that tests by its own scientists and in independent laboratories show the quality of its drinks is "irreproachable." The European Union executive body said it will carry out inspections with Belgian and French health officials at the two plants at the center of the scare later this week.

The Commerce Department will broaden its investigation of steel imports by looking into whether companies in Japan, China and 10 other countries are selling the metal in the United States at unfairly low prices, Commerce Secretary William Daley said. The Clinton administration's decision to start the new probe comes a day before the Senate begins debating a more extreme measure -- legislation that would slap a quota on steel imports. Daley said the president will probably veto the quota bill, which passed the House of Representatives by a 2 to 1 margin in March, saying it violates global rules and could trigger a trade war.

Aetna reached an agreement with the Justice Department that paves the way for Aetna's purchase of Prudential HealthCare. The deal calls for Aetna to sell its NYLCare HMO businesses in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and parts of Houston. Though the PruCare acquisition still needs approval from several states, Aetna said it expects to complete it during the third quarter.

Weyerhaeuser, the No. 3 U.S. forestry company, agreed to buy Canada's MacMillan Bloedel for $2.45 billion (U.S.) in stock to create one of the world's top three makers of packaging products. Weyerhaeuser will pay 0.28 shares for each share of MacMillan, Canada's largest forest-products company. The stock swap values MacMillan shares at $19.53 each based on Friday's price, a 35 percent premium. The merger plan follows International Paper's purchase of Union Camp in April, which formed the world's largest paper company in an effort to curb an oversupply of container board.

Texas Instruments, the biggest maker of semiconductors for cellular telephones, agreed to buy Israel's Libit Signal Processing Ltd. for $365 million in cash to enter communications via cable television. Closely held Libit makes chips for modems that enable transmission of voice, video and data -- including Internet access -- through cable networks. Texas Instruments, Libit and Telogy Networks, which Texas Instruments also is acquiring, plan to jointly develop a communications system via cable.

Federated Department Stores said its Fingerhut direct-mail unit would fill Internet orders for Wal-Mart Stores, the world's largest retailer, and eToys, one of the leading online toy stores. Financial terms of the agreements were not disclosed, but Will Lansing, chief executive of Fingerhut, said Wal-Mart and eToys were the largest of the company's 22 clients.

EMI Recorded Music will start encoding its huge library of songs for delivery over the Internet in the biggest step yet by a major record label toward selling music online, the company said. EMI has hired Liquid Audio, a California company, to use its format to encode songs so they can be sent quickly over the Internet while protecting against unauthorized copying.

T-bill rates declined. The discount rate on three-month Treasury bills auctioned yesterday fell to 4.610 percent, from 4.620 percent last week. The rate on six-month bills fell to 4.850 percent from 4.855 percent. The actual return to investors is 4.741 percent for three-month bills, with a $10,000 bill selling for $9,883.50, and 5.055 percent for a six-month bill selling for $9,754.80. Separately, the Federal Reserve said the average yield for one-year Treasury bills, a popular index for changing adjustable-rate mortgages, fell to 5.03 percent last week from 5.12 percent the previous week.

The New York Stock Exchange, responding to competition as well as complaints from institutional investors, plans to let some electronic orders be executed almost automatically. The Big Board drafted the plan after some big investors complained that their electronic orders didn't always get filled. The new system -- dubbed "Institutional Xpress" by the NYSE -- is planned for the third quarter of 2000, according to an exchange filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

MindSpring Enterprises, the No. 4 Internet service provider, has started a new unit to target small-business customers in a shift away from its focus on consumers. Expecting strong demand from small businesses looking to create Web sites, MindSpring's new unit will build upon offerings from Netcom On-Line Communication Services, which focused on business customers and was purchased by MindSpring in February for $245 million.

Yahoo, the No. 1 Internet directory and search service, introduced a new program to help users who are selling many items simplify their auctions. Yahoo Auctions Express allows users to enter hundreds of items and run multiple auctions, monitor selling activity and end auctions early. Yahoo and other Web companies have been trying to catch up with eBay, the top Internet auctioneer.

The Advisory Commission on Electronic Commerce struggled at its inaugural meeting to figure out how to solicit private money to funds its operations while avoiding a perception of bias. The 19-member panel was created by Congress last year to recommend future tax policy on Internet commerce. Instead of federal funding, however, it was given a directive to find private donations of money and other necessities.

Energy Secretary Bill Richardson promised continued economic support for wind-energy research and development and support for tax incentives in announcing a plan to increase the country's capacity to get power from wind. Richardson committed the government to have wind power produce 5 percent of the nation's electrical needs by 2020. Currently, about one-tenth of 1 percent of the nation's electric needs are provided by the wind.


Ford plans to start building a $150 million factory in Vsevolozhsk, Russia, near St. Petersburg, in July. The plant, which will have an initial capacity of 25,000 Ford Focus cars a year, is slated to start production in the first half of 2001. The factory will mark Ford's return to Russia after the country's second-biggest automaker, Gaz, produced a Ford model in the 1930s. The move is meant to launch a long-term presence for Ford in Russia.

Stock mutual funds received $8.6 million in new money from investors in the three days ended Thursday, reversing the $2.1 billion of net redemptions for the previous Friday-Monday period, according to Trim Tabs Investment Research. The bulk of the inflows, $5.2 billion, went to funds that invest in U.S. stocks, followed by international equities funds, aggressive growth, growth and income, and growth funds.


The Washington Post Co. has sold some remaining assets of its subsidiary Legi-Slate Inc. to State Net, an online government information provider, for an undisclosed price. The announcement comes one week after The Post announced it was selling most of Legi-Slate's other assets to Congressional Quarterly Inc. and shutting down the 20-year-old government information service. The asset State Net is buying is a service that provides custom reports for clients on legislative trends in all 50 states and Congress.

Value America agreed to buy InService America, a telephone-marketing and fund-raising services firm based in Lynchburg, Va., for an undisclosed amount. The acquisition of InService, which caters to religious and nonprofit groups, will allow Charlottesville-based Value America, an online retailer of computers, electronics and other products, to branch out into specialized customer groups.