Wells Fargo is buying all the assets of Strong Financial, the Wisconsin-based mutual fund company whose founder and principal owner was banned from the industry last week because of his involvement in a trading scandal. Terms for the sale of Strong's $34 billion in assets under management were not disclosed, but the Wall Street Journal reported that the transaction could be worth as much as $700 million. Wells Fargo's total assets under management would grow to $217 billion. Wells Fargo and Strong Financial, which is 85 percent owned by Richard Strong, had been rumored to be in talks for months, and the settlement had cleared the way for a sale.

Carlyle Bids For Japanese Wireless Firm

Carlyle Group, the D.C.-based private equity firm, is in talks to acquire a controlling interest in the wireless data service unit of Japan's second-largest phone company. KDDI, the owner of DDI Pocket, said no agreement on selling the unit has been reached. The Nihon Keizai Shimbun newspaper reported that Carlyle and Kyocera have agreed to acquire DDI Pocket for about $2 billion. DDI is best known for a service that offers Internet or corporate network access by wireless device for a flat fee.

MORE NEWS

Orders to factories for durables, costly manufactured goods expected to last at least three years, fell 2.9 percent in April, reflecting the sometimes bumpy recovery navigated by the nation's manufacturers. But April's slackening in demand for big-ticket goods came after sizable gains in February and March, where orders went up by 3.9 percent and a strong 5.7 percent, respectively.

Coffee futures in New York rose to their highest price in more than three years as forecasts for colder weather in Brazil heightened concern that frost will damage the world's biggest coffee crop. Prices have increased 12 percent in the past four market sessions. Coffee for July delivery rose 2.35 cents, or 3 percent, to 80.15 cents a pound on the Coffee, Sugar & Cocoa Exchange in New York, the highest closing price since Oct. 20, 2000. Procter & Gamble said last month that it would raise the prices of its Folgers coffee sold to restaurants, businesses and wholesale clubs by as much as 6 percent because of the rising cost of raw beans.

Eight oil companies -- Exxon Mobil, BP, ChevronTexaco, ConocoPhillips, Marathon Ashland Petroleum, Amerada Hess, Citgo Petroleum and Motiva Enterprises -- were subpoenaed by Florida Attorney General Charles J. Crist Jr. over the rising cost of gasoline in the state. Michigan and California are also investigation the surge in fuel prices, and attorneys general from seven states have asked the Justice Department to investigate.

A former Cendant executive told jurors she helped former vice chairman E. Kirk Shelton inflate revenue when they were at CUC International, which merged with another company in 1997 to form Cendant. Former Cendant vice president Anne Pember, who's testifying for the government in the criminal fraud trial of Shelton and former CUC chief executive Walter Forbes, said accountants working for her reduced expenses at CUC by $27 million and increased revenue by $149 million on a report covering the first three quarters of fiscal 1997. Cendant paid $2.85 billion to resolve shareholder lawsuits over the accounting fraud, the largest-ever U.S. shareholder settlement.

PeopleSoft's board rejected an Oracle takeover for a fourth time. Oracle had offered of $7.7 billion, or $21 per share. PeopleSoft cited the antitrust threat as another reason for spurning Oracle. Also, PeopleSoft disclosed it had settled all the shareholders suits filed against a company program created as a takeover defense that guaranteed customer refunds up to five times the sales amount if significant product changes are made under new ownership.

United Airlines, the world's second-largest carrier, raised ticket prices by $10 for round-trip flights in the United States and Canada because of higher fuel costs. The increase will affect a majority of fares.

Yields on two-year Treasury notes rose to 2.538 percent, the highest level in nearly two years, up from 2.270 percent at the last auction, on April 28. The notes will carry a coupon interest rate of 21/2 percent with each $10,000 in face value selling for $9,992.60.

DuPont won a ruling from an appeals court in a lawsuit by two Costa Rican growers who claimed widespread plant damage from the discontinued fungicide Benlate. The court erased the $26 million award, saying that "it is virtually impossible to reconcile" the size of the award for lost profit with the evidence and that the dollar amount "must be established with a reasonable degree of certainty."

Adelphia Communications founder John Rigas and his family owed the company $3.2 billion in April 2002, according to a consultant's analysis given to jurors at the fraud trial of Rigas and two of his sons. Prosecutors called Adelphia consultant Robert DiBella as their last witness in the 13-week-old trial to summarize evidence they say supports allegations that Rigas and sons Michael and Timothy hid $2.3 billion in debt and stole $100 million before Adelphia's bankruptcy in June 2002. DiBella analyzed 100,000 transactions involving Rigas family businesses and Adelphia, the No. 5 cable television operator.

INTERNATIONAL

Alstom's state-supported, multibillion-dollar bailout is being backed by European Union regulators, allowing the troubled engineering giant to keep core businesses. Under the deal between EU competition chief Mario Monti and France's finance minister, Alstom is to sell off activities representing about 10 percent of its revenue and will be barred from making acquisitions in the European transport sector for four years.

China's wholesale prices soared to their highest levels in nearly eight years in April and consumer prices also leapt, the government reported. The National Bureau of Statistics said that the producer price index increased 5 percent year-to-year, the fastest increase since late 1996. Consumer prices rose by 3.8 percent, the sharpest increase in seven years, it said.

Milan prosecutors probing the bankruptcy of Parmalat Finanziaria made a second attempt to indict Calisto Tanzi, the food company's founder; a Bank of America unit; Deloitte & Touche; and the former Italian branch of Grant Thornton, accusing them of market manipulation, false statements and obstructing a market regular. A request for indictments and a fast-track legal process was rejected in March, but evidence needed to support the second request is less stringent because prosecutors have to demonstrate only that they have proof for a preliminary hearing.

Topps Co. was fined $1.9 million by the European Union because of irregularities in the way it distributed the popular Pokemon stickers and cards in different European countries. The European Commission said Topps had barred imports from countries where the cards and stickers were priced low, to those where the cards were priced higher, thus fragmenting the EU's single market for the items and keeping prices "artificially high."

LOCAL BUSINESS

The Washington Convention Center Authority voted unanimously to hire Minneapolis-based Convention Sports and Leisure International to study whether the city needs a 1,000-plus room hotel to help bring business to the new convention center. The authority said it will pay $326,750 for the study. The company will also look at whether the city will need to expand the convention center, where to put a possible hotel and how to pay for it. The study is expected to be done by the end of July.

Circuit City Stores, the Richmond-based electronics retailer, completed the sale of its private-label credit card operation to Bank One. The company, which took a $9 million loss on the sale, last November sold its bankcard operations to FleetBoston Financial.

EARNINGS

Toll Brothers, a builder of luxury homes, said profit jumped 37 percent to $72.4 million for the quarter ended April 30, due to strong demand for homes. Revenue surged 35 percent, to $819.5 million. Contract signings and backlog set quarterly records.

Compiled from reports by the Associated Press, Bloomberg News, Dow Jones News Service and Washington Post staff writers

Mark Belnick, former Tyco International general counsel, leaves a New York courthouse last month at the start of his trial on charges on grand larceny and securities fraud charges. Tyco's former human resources director testified yesterday that L. Dennis Kozlowski, the former Tyco chief executive, wanted to get rid of Belnick even after approving a $17 million bonus for him for heading off a federal accounting probe. Prosecutors say he got the bonus plus almost $15 million more in interest-free loans for keeping quiet about Kozlowski's frauds.