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PPG Industries, the chemical- and paintmaking giant, agreed to a $2.7 billion settlement of asbestos claims against its bankrupt affiliate, Pittsburgh Corning. The deal was the latest, and one of the largest, in a series related the once-popular insulation and fireproofing substance, which analysts said may end up costing US companies more than $200 billion overall.

Napster Inc., the online music-swapping service, was expected to declare bankruptcy after a $16.5 million acquisition deal with German-based media conglomerate Bertelsmann collapsed. Company founder Shawn Fanning and several other senior executives subsequently resigned. Napster is being sued by major record labels for copyright infringement and is barred by a federal court order from offering copyrighted material free via the Internet.

Energy explorer Unocal Corp. and three partners said they plan to develop fields off the southwest coast of Vietnam containing an estimated 2.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Bringing the gas to shore would require a $1.5 billion investment, a representative of El Segundo, Calif.-based Unocal said, and would involve construction of a 230-mile pipeline to supply as many as three power plants under a 25-year deal with state oil company Petrovietnam.

Kingfisher, one of the world's leading operators of home-improvement stores, said it has offered $4.6 billion for full control of French subsidiary Castorama. Kingfisher already owns a 55 percent stake in the company, a wholesale and retail supplier of materials to building contractors and do-it-yourselfers. Kingfisher is based in London; Castorama in Templemars, France.


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