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In a race to consolidate operations in the music industry, EMI Group is nearing a deal on a merger with Time Warner's Warner Music division, the Financial Times reported. That follows Thursday's announcement by Sony and BMG, music unit of Germany's Bertelsmann AG, of an agreement to form what would be the second-largest recorded-music company. Sony currently holds the title. Regulators would have to approve the mergers but are unlikely to OK both, the newspaper said, because it would narrow the number of main players from five to three.

Netherlands-based Royal Ahold, the world's No. 3 retailer, announced sweeping changes Friday in a bid to recover from a massive accounting scandal at its US Foodservice unit. The Dutch food giant said it would issue $2.9 billion in new shares, raise a similar amount through the sale of stores in Spain, and cut capital spending. It also suspended common share dividends. Ahold operates, among others, the Stop & Shop and Giant Food supermarket chains in the US.

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Signaling plans to refocus on core pharmaceutical and agricultural products, Bayer AG said Friday that it will spin off much of its chemicals and polymers business. The new firm, to be called NewCo, will be based in Bayer's hometown of Leverkusen, Germany, and will employ 20,000 people in 20 countries, company officials said. Bayer is the world's second-largest chemical manufacturer.

Bank of America Corp. is cutting nearly 100 jobs in its investment-banking division, a spokeswoman said Friday. The layoffs are in response to business conditions, the spokeswoman said, and are unrelated to Bank of America's recent $47 billion acquisition of FleetBoston Financial. Bank of America is based in Charlotte, N.C.


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