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Viacom inc., said it's buying CBS Corp. for $34.45 billion in stock - the biggest media deal to date. It comes a month after the Federal Communications Commission relaxed TV-station ownership rules, triggering new merger talks among media companies. Viacom already owns Paramount Pictures, MTV, and a TV-station group, as well as 50 percent of the UPN network. The future status of UPN was unclear because federal rules prevent ownership of more than two networks by a single firm.

Hilton Hotels will buy Promus Hotel Corp. in a $4 billion stock and cash deal that will create one of the nation's biggest lodging chains, the former announced. The deal gives Hilton a large stake in the fast-growing limited-service and all-suites segments of the travel market. Promus's interests include Embassy Suites, Doubletree, Homewood Suites, and Hampton Inns.

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Sovereign Bancorp of Pennsylvania said it's buying 278 Fleet and BankBoston branches in New England for $1.4 billion - a deal that would make it the third-largest bank in the region. As part of their proposed merger, Fleet and BankBoston have agreed to divest more than 300 branches. Sovereign said it's taking over 176 of those in Massachusetts, 50 in Rhode Island, 39 in Connecticut, and 13 in New Hampshire. The 28 remaining branches will be turned over to smaller banks. Another proposed merger - between Citizens Financial Group and USTrust - would create the region's second-largest bank.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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