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At&t's plan to take over cable giant TCI was approved by federal regulators , clearing the way for an accord that may give consumers a new choice for local phone service. The deal, announced in June, is valued at nearly $32 billion.

In a deal worth $9.7 billion, the global insurance industry contracted still further, as Aegon NV of the Netherlands bought San Francisco-based Transamerica Corp. That will make Aegon, which earlier paid $3.5 billion for Providian Corp. of Louisville, Ky., the third-largest insurer in the US - in terms of assets and premiums written, a spokesman said. The purchase was the second involving a US insurer this week and the third since Feb. 1.

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Last-minute agreement on new contract terms avoided a potentially devastating strike by Germany's 3.4 million unionized metalworkers. Under pressure from Chancellor Gerhard Schrder, such major employers as DaimlerChrysler and Volkswagen OK'd a deal that will give the workers a 3.6 percent pay increase retroactive to Jan. 1. Schrder argued that the flagging economy could not cope with a strike by Germany's largest and most powerful union. Unemployment there is just under 12 percent.

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