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Ending its holdout against an $11.2 billion takeover offer, the British industrial-gases company BOC Group agreed to be acquired by rivals Air Liquide of France and Air Products & Chemicals Inc. of Trexlertown, Pa. As recently as June 21, essentially the same bid was rejected, with BOC saying no further discussions were under way. The buyers said they planned to divide BOC's global operations, and employee unions warned of major job losses. The 100-year-old company has a work force of 11,000.

Schlumberger Ltd. will spin off its offshore drilling operations, combining them with Houston, Texas-based Transocean Offshore Inc. to create the world's largest offshore-drilling company, Transocean Sedco Forex. Stockholders of New York City-based Schlumberger will receive new shares valued at $3.2 billion. They will own 52 percent of the new firm, receiving roughly one of its shares for every five Schlumberger shares they own.

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In a merger of office- and computer-supply companies, Buhrmann NV of the Netherlands announced it is acquiring Broomfield, Colo.-based Corporate Express for $2.3 billion. Both have work forces of 15,000 employees, and Buhrmann said the combined company would be the world's largest in its field. Together, they have operations in 28 countries and annual sales of $9 billion.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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