MERGERS & ACQUISITIONS

Chiron Accepts Novartis's Bid

Chiron said its board of directors accepted a sweetened $5.1 billion takeover offer from the Swiss drug giant Novartis, which vowed to turn around the beleaguered flu-shot maker.

Novartis already owns 42 percent of Chiron, which touched off a public-health crisis in the United States last year when it failed to deliver half of the country's expected flu-shot stockpile. Chiron's influenza vaccines include Fluvirin, above.

Emeryville, Calif.-based Chiron had rejected a previous offer of $4.5 billion. The deal is subject to review by regulators and shareholders.

ECONOMY

Consumer Spending, Incomes Up

Consumer spending rose in September and incomes grew briskly, suggesting the economy is holding up well after hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The 0.5 percent rise in consumer spending followed a 0.5 percent drop in August, the Commerce Department said. Incomes increased 1.7 percent in September, boosted in part by post-hurricane insurance payments. The growth in income marked an improvement from the 0.9 percent plunge posted in August -- a decline that largely reflected fallout from Katrina.

AUTOMOTIVE

GM Keeps Dividend Despite Loss

General Motors said that it would continue paying a quarterly dividend of 50 cents a share despite four consecutive quarterly losses. The automaker said it would pay the approximately $283 million dividend on Dec. 10 to shareholders of record on Nov. 10. GM reported a $1.64 billion third-quarter loss, including a net $550 million of extraordinary charges, on Oct. 17.

MARKETS

NASD Punishes Firms for Trades

The NASD fined three brokerages $6.75 million and expelled a fourth for charging excessive markups or markdowns on corporate high-yield bond trades. The firms also were ordered to return $1.1 million to clients. SG Americas Securities, RBC Capital Markets and RBC Dain Rauscher were fined, and DebtTraders was expelled from the industry, for charging markups or markdowns as high as 40 percent; NASD said markups and markdowns should not exceed 5 percent. The regulator said DebtTraders also violated bookkeeping rules and failed to correctly report bond transactions.

Valero Energy, the largest U.S. refiner, said third-quarter profit almost doubled, to $862 million from $434 million in the comparable period last year, as hurricanes Katrina and Rita shut down Gulf Coast plants, lifting gasoline and diesel prices to new highs. Sales jumped 62 percent, to $23.28 billion. The company also announced that chief executive Bill Greehey will step down at year's end.

Occidental Petroleum said its third-quarter profit rose to $1.75 billion, from $758 million, helped by substantial one-time gains. Core earnings for the period were $1.09 billion, up from $759 million a year ago. Revenue rose to $4.06 billion from $3 billion.

United Airlines' parent company said its third-quarter loss widened to $1.77 billion from $274 million as it took $1.84 billion of charges related to its bankruptcy. Revenue increased 8 percent, to nearly $4.66 billion.

T-bill rates rose. The discount rate on three-month Treasury bills auctioned yesterday increased to 3.89 percent from 3.85 percent last week. Rates on six-month bills rose to 4.125 percent from 4.065 percent. The annualized return to investors is 3.983 percent for three-month bills, with a $10,000 bill selling for $9,901.67, and 4.271 percent for a six-month bill selling for $9,791.46. Separately, the Federal Reserve said the average yield for one-year Treasury bills, a popular index for making changes in adjustable-rate mortgages, rose to 4.26 percent last week from 4.19 percent the previous week.

Compiled from staff and news service reports.