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Qwest communications said its proposed acquisition of US West and Frontier Corp. could save about $14 billion over the first five years of the deal. Denver-based Qwest has offered to buy Baby Bell US West Inc. and long-distance provider Frontier for $55 billion in cash and stock, in an attempt to break up rival Global Crossing Ltd.'s plans to buy both companies.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. entered takeover negotiations between two British merchandising chains "a week to 10 days" before completion and succeeded in pushing aside the presumed buyer. The giant US retailer announced in London it will acquire Asda Group Plc., which operates 229 supermarkets, in a deal worth $10.7 billion. Asda had agreed to be acquired by Kingfisher Plc., and their deal was in the closing stages before Wal-Mart's move.

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Businesses added moderately to stocks on hand during April as sales weakened for the first time since January, the Commerce Department announced. The value of total inventories at retailers, wholesalers, and manufacturers rose 0.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted $1.098 trillion - the weakest performance since a 0.1 percent decrease in January. Total inventories increased 0.5 percent in March.

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