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As expected, Vivendi Universal announced it has won $1.97 billion in new loans from creditor banks, and its chief told employees he has "identified the way out" of deep financial crisis. But Jean-René Fourtou acknowledged in a letter made public over the weekend that the deeply indebted French media giant last month was "on the verge of having to file for bankruptcy." The new funding, coupled with $989 million in short-term credit arranged in early July, enable the company to avoid a fire sale of assets just to keep up with debt repayments, Fourtou said.

Lone Star Fund offered no immediate comment on a decision by the South Korean government that cost it preferred-bidder status for SeoulBank, the troubled lender nationalized after the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis. The private Dallas-based fund, which specializes in turning around troubled companies and then selling them, was passed over in favor of Hana Bank, South Korea's sixth-largest, although their offers both were believed to be just under $1 billion. Finance Ministry spokesmen said the competing offers were evaluated equally, but "other terms submitted by Hana are better than Lone Star's." SeoulBank returned to profitability a year ago and is considered by analysts to be a prime takeover target. Lone Star could reenter the process if Hana and SeoulBank fail to merge, a ministry spokesman said.

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