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London-based EMI Group was awaiting a decision on its reported $1.7 billion cash and stock bid for Time Warner's music division, a deal that would create the world's second-largest recorded music company. The Time Warner board was due to make a recommendation after press time Thursday on whether to accept the offer or a rival one from a private consortium led by entertainment moguls Haim Saban and Edgar Bronfman. The latter made a sweeter-than-expected bid of $2.55 billion in cash as well as a provision to allow Time Warner to share profits from a future sale of the operation, London's Financial Times reported.

Hollinger International said it received a subpoena from US securities regulators requesting "certain documents," and Canadian regulators also are looking into irregularities at the Chicago-based newspaper group. An internal probe turned up $32 million in unapproved payments to ex-chief executive Conrad Black and several deputies. Black stepped down Wednesday, two days ahead of schedule, Hollinger said, on the advice of his attorney.

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In the first such suit against a credit-counseling company, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) accused industry giant AmeriDebt of deceptive practices, charging hidden fees, failing to educate customers on how to get out of debt, and falsely claiming to be a nonprofit. Consumer groups hailed the suit, filed Wednesday in federal court in Greenbelt, Md. In addition, Minnesota's attorney general filed fraud charges against AmeriDebt, with similar action expected in Texas. AmeriDebt is based in Germantown, Md.

Loews Cineplex Entertainment and parent firm Onex Corp. have begun preliminary talks on a possible "business combination" with AMC Entertainment, although the companies said there is no certainty they'll reach a deal. If they do, the merger would create North America's second-largest movie theater chain. Loews operates some 280 cinemas in the US, Canada, Spain, and South Korea. AMC has 232 in the US, Canada, Europe, and Asia.


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