Stuart Varney is returning to CNN to host, with Willow Bay, its flagship financial program, "Moneyline News Hour," the network announced yesterday.

The two replace Lou Dobbs, who resigned three weeks ago to head an online venture about outer space, and whose name was not mentioned in the network's announcement.

Varney, an 18-year veteran of CNN, and Bay, who co-anchors "CNN & Fortune" and "CNN & Entertainment Weekly," will take the "Moneyline" helm July 19.

The show is one of CNN's biggest moneymakers, attracting premium ad rates thanks to its affluent viewership. But it's facing keener competition since rival CNBC added a half-hour to its "Business Center" show last week, hoping to capitalize on Dobbs's departure.

The 50-year-old Varney, who co-anchored CNN's "Business Day" and programs on CNNfn, bowed out 14 months ago for the lecture circuit.

After 18 years of getting up at 2:30 a.m. to host the early-morning business news show, and reaching "a certain age," it was time to "ratchet down" his lifestyle, Varney said. But "along came this opportunity--I think it's the premier opportunity in business news and not to be turned down," he said from rural England, where he's visiting his mother.

Published reports say Varney also is being considered for a show in development at CNN in anticipation of extended stock market trading hours. But Varney maintained that he knew of no such show.