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In an deal valued at $1.17 billion, a company based in Russia made what's believed to be the largest acquisition yet outside the boundaries of its own country. The Financial Times and Bloomberg.com reported that OAO Norilsk Nickel bought a 20 percent stake in Gold Fields Ltd. - becoming the latter's largest shareholder in the process - without any previous contact on the matter. Gold Fields, of Johannesburg, South Africa, the world's fourth-largest mining company, said it learned of the transaction on the city's stock exchange only after the fact. The seller, Anglo American PLC of London, expects to use the proceeds of the sale to pay down debt and to finance additional investment in mining in South Africa, the reports said.

Bankrupt Air Canada was asking the courts for another month's protection from creditors because of a dispute between unions representing its employees and a major new investor that, analysts said, has the potential to collapse the company. Trinity Time Investments, controlled by Hong Kong tycoon Victor Li, said over the weekend it would walk away from its promised $650 million infusion of cash unless the unions agree to changes it proposes to Air Canada's pension program. The unions have refused any concessions beyond the more than $750 million a year they already have agreed to. Trinity Time Investments and GE Capital Aviation Services of the US, which is prepared to provide another $1.5 billion in new financing for Air Canada, require that the carrier emerge from bankruptcy by April 30.

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