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In what analysts said could be the beginning of a new round of consolidation in Britain's banking industry, the nation's fourth largest bank, Barclays PLC, is negotiating a friendly takeover of accounting firm Woolwich PLC. The former indicated the transaction could be worth $8.3 billion. The deal for Woolwich, which controls 5.3 percent of the nation's mortgage business, would more than double Barclays' mortgage operation. The merger would not bring in large cost savings, analysts said, but could generate considerable revenue for Barclays and improve its technology.

Internet software companies Phone.com Inc. and Software.com Inc. announced a $6.8 billion stock-swap merger that would create a leading provider of Internet features to wireless devices. The northern California-based companies must await shareholder approval of the as-yet-unnamed company, but both boards have approved the deal, appointing Cisco Systems Inc. executive Donald Listwin as chief executive officer.

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