CONSUMER PRODUCTS

E.U. Clears P&G-Gillette Merger

European Union antitrust regulators approved Procter & Gamble's proposed $57 billion takeover of Gillette after P&G agreed to shed its SpinBrush battery toothbrush business. The E.U. approval brings P&G one step closer to creating the world's biggest consumer products company, with brands such as Pampers and Gillette's line of razors, but it still needs regulatory approval from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to complete the deal. FTC spokesman Mitchell Katz declined to release details of the pending review. P&G hopes to complete the deal in the fall.

ECONOMY

U.S. Industrial Output Soars

Industrial production rose in June at the fastest pace in 16 months. The Federal Reserve reported that industrial output increased 0.9 percent in June, three times faster than the 0.3 percent rise in May. The good performance provided further evidence that the nation's factories, mines and utilities have rebounded from a spring slowdown.

Meanwhile, the Labor Department reported that wholesale prices were unchanged in June. A steep decline in food prices offset the fastest rise in gasoline prices in eight months.

TELECOMMUNICATIONS

Affiliate Sues Sprint Over Merger

IPCS, which sells wireless calling services under the Sprint brand, sued Sprint over its proposed acquisition of Nextel Communications. Schaumberg, Ill.-based IPCS said the merged company would directly compete with IPCS in violation of a 1999 agreement. Its suit followed a similar action Tuesday by UbiquiTel of Conshohoken, Pa. Sprint agreed on Monday to buy a third affiliate, Unwired of Lake Charles, La., for $1.3 billion after that company asked a judge to block the Nextel deal.

Donohue Quits as Qwest Director

Qwest Communications International said Thomas J. Donohue has resigned from the telephone company's board of directors. Donohue is president and chief executive of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and has served as a Qwest director since 2001.

EARNINGS

GE Posts 24 Percent Gain

General Electric reported a 24 pecent increase in second-quarter earnings that was fueled by double-digit profit growth in each of its businesses, including building jet engines and power plants as well as the NBC television network.

Profit rose to $4.65 billion from $3.75 billion in the comparable quarter last year. Revenue increased 13 percent, to $41.65 billion.

LEGAL

Visa Accused of Price-Fixing

Kroger, the nation's No. 2 grocer after Wal-Mart, said it and several other large retailers have filed a federal lawsuit against Visa, charging the credit-card issuer with price-fixing and restricting competition in credit-card transactions. In its lawsuit, Kroger accused Visa of colluding with its member banks to illegally fix prices on interchange fees, which credit card issuers like Visa and MasterCard charge merchants each time a customer pays with a credit card.

EUROPE

Flu Vaccine Shipments Cut

Chiron, which last season halted its output of flu vaccine for the U.S. market because of quality-control problems, said it will cut its supply of vaccine in England and Germany after it discovered tainted batches at its Begrivac plant in Marburg, Germany. The company reduced its expected output for the upcoming flu season to 4 million doses from 12 million.

BRAZIL

U.S. Cotton Penalties Sought

Brazil asked the World Trade Organization to allow it to impose $3 billion in annual countermeasures to punish the United States for illegal cotton subsidies. However, Brazil said it will give Washington more time to craft legislation that would end the subsidies. In March, the WTO upheld a ruling declaring that many U.S. programs include illegal export subsidies or domestic payments that are higher than the commerce body's rules allow.

Compiled from staff and news service reports.

The P&G-Gillette merger still needs FTC approval.