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Beleaguered media giant Vivendi Universal announced the sale of a 20.4 percent stake in its water and waste-treatment subsidiary to a consortium of US, French, and Italian investors for $1.85 billion. An identical share in Vivendi Environnment will be sold to the same investors in late 2004, a spokesman said, ultimately leaving Vivendi with only media and entertainment assets. Last week, the company raised $1 billion from the sale of convertible bonds to help match a buyout offer for its partners' stakes in Cegetel, a French cellphone-service provider that has become a takeover target of the industry's leader, Vodafone.

In a bid to force NRG Energy Inc. into bankruptcy, five former executives filed an involuntary Chapter 11 petition against the Minneapolis-based company, claiming they are owed $23.5 million in compensation, the Financial Times reported. The five left NRG when it was reacquired by parent Xcel Energy in June. The power generator and marketer is trying to restructure $10 billion in debt while selling some international assets amid an industry crunch in the wake of the Enron collapse.

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