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Trading was suspended in the stocks of Endesa, the leading electric utility in Spain, and in Gas Natural, its No. 1 distributor of that fuel, after the latter announced a $28.3 billion takeover bid. If successful, the cash-and-stock offer would be the largest buyout in Spanish history and would result in the world's third-largest integrated energy group. The biggest takeover in the utility industry so far was Exelon's $26 billion acquisition of Public Service Enterprise Group of New Jersey last December. Analysts noted, however, that Endesa is twice the size of Gas Natural and has almost five times as much debt. A deal also would have to win regulatory approval, although the Spanish government said it would not attempt to interfere.

A $4.5 billion offer by pharmaceutical giant Novartis to buy the remaining stock in rival Chiron Corp. that it doesn't already own was rejected as "inadequate." Chiron, based in Emeryville, Calif., said the companies have had "an ongoing dialogue" on mergers and significant acquisitions, but its statement appeared to dispute a contention that some of its directors had approached Novartis about a takeover. Novartis is based in Basel, Switzerland.

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With Boeing's mechanics on strike, rival Airbus won a $1.8 billion order from China Southern Airlines for 10 new passenger jets. The order was the second of its size by the carrier in two months. In July, it contracted with Boeing for $1.35 billion worth of planes. But in January it ordered five of Airbus's giant new A380 jets.

Volkswagen has "several thousand" more employees than it needs under current conditions and will step up efforts to cut jobs, a statement said. The automaker didn't specify which categories would be affected or when, but indicated that most of the layoffs would come in Germany, its home base. Under a contract with employee unions, Volkswagen may not fire employees outright until 2012.

Retail giant Kingfisher PLC confirmed a published report that its B&Q home-improvement subsidiary will lay off 400 employees. The Mail on Sunday (London) said B&Q, the world's third-largest do-it-yourself chain, has been losing ground to rival Homebase.


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