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Despite lingering investor concerns, the first foreign-owned bank in Japan was expecting to raise as much as $2.3 billion from its initial public offering early next month. Analysts said Shinsei Bank's IPO should be the largest in Japan since NEC Electronics raised $1.3 billion last year - and possibly the largest in four years. The company, formerly known as Long-Term Credit Bank, was sold to a consortium of international investors led by private equity fund Ripplewood Holdings LLC of New York in 2000. However, the Financial Times said investor enthusiasm for the IPO is tempered by worry over the fact that the Japanese government owns one-third of Shinsei's shares, none of which are included in next month's sale.

In its second major deal this week, MBNA Corp. announced agreement with American Express to issue the latter's credit cards in the US, Canada, Britain, and Spain. The Wilmington, Del., company has distributed most of its cards through university and professional "affinity" programs. It ranks second behind Citigroup in its share of the credit-card market; American Express is seventh. On Tuesday, MBNA acquired Premium Credit, a leading British financial-services provider, for an undisclosed sum.

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For the second time in two years, the maker of Fannie Farmer and Fannie May sweets, Archibald Candy Co., filed for protection from creditors under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy code. It cited liabilities of more than $100 million, compared to assets worth $100 million at most. The company closed its Chicago manufacturing plant earlier this week and previously announced it has a signed agreement to sell the two brands to Alpine Confections Inc. of Alpine, Utah.

KB Toys, a leading retailer, will cut 3,500 jobs and close at least 375 of its 1,231 stores, reports said. The privately owned Pittsfield, Mass., company won a bankruptcy court's OK Wednesday for its reorganization plan. It concentrates its outlets in shopping malls, but blames its problems on competition from retail giants such as Wal-Mart and a pre-Christmas price war.


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