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abbott laboratories agreed to buy Alza Corp., a research-based pharmaceutical company, in a stock deal worth $7.3 billion. Alza, which employs 2,000 people, is based in Palo Alto, Calif. North Chicago-based Abbott has 56,000 employees and sells its products in 130 nations.

America Online said it would invest $1.5 billion in DirecTV owner Hughes Electronics Corp., giving AOL a means to offer high-speed Internet service via satellite as it battles for access to high-speed cable lines. The deal with Hughes, which offers digital-TV and Internet access, is the largest cash investment ever made by AOL, officials said.

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Qwest's options were to raise its offer to U S West, take its proposal directly to U S West shareholders, or simply walk away. The Qwest chairman sent a letter to U S West, urging the Baby Bell to enter into discussions regarding a business combination. But U S West rejected - at least for now - the surprise $33.6 billion takeover bid and reaffirmed its plan to merge with Global Crossing Ltd.

GTE Corp., accelerating efforts to divest itself of noncore assets, will sell three communications and electronics units from its government-systems division to General Dynamics Corp. for $1.05 billion in cash, it was announced.

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