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A $31.5 billion takeover of O2, the largest merger in the telecommunications industry in Europe in five years, was announced by Telefonica SA of Spain. O2, based in Slough, England, was spun off in 2001 by the former phone monopoly BT Group. In August, it was the object of an unsuccessful joint takeover attempt by Germany's Deutsche Telekom and KPN, the largest phone company in the Netherlands. Telefonica previously has built most of its business in Central and South America.

In other merger news:

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• Ferry and port operator Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. (P&O) confirmed a buyout approach that published reports put at $5.3 billion. P&O didn't identify the potential buyer, but The Wall Street Journal said it is Dubai Port World, which is owned by the government of the United Arab Emirates. P&O is based in London and owns 27 shipping terminals around the world.

• Pharmaceutical giant Novartis said it will pay $5.1 billion for the 58 percent of troubled biotechnology company Chiron Corp. of Emeryville, Calif., that it doesn't already own. The latter made headlines last fall when its flu vaccine plant in Britain was ordered to close due to contamination concerns, keeping almost half of the annual US supply from reaching the market.

• Bon-Ton Stores, a 16-state chain is expected to double its holdings by buying the northern store group of Saks Inc. for $1.1 billion, The Wall Street Journal reported.

• Susquehanna Pfaltzgraff of York, Pa., announced the sale of the nation's largest privately owned radio system for $1.2 billion to Cumulus Media, Bain Capital, the Blackstone Group, and Thomas Lee Partners. The company will also sell its cable operations to Comcast Corp.

• Australian Gas Light Co. said it is buying the hydro- and wind-power operations of New Zealand's Meridian Energy for $1.05 billion.

Infineon Technologies, the largest manufacturer of chips in Europe, reached agreement on a new contract with the powerful union IG Metall that will end a strike and enable it to close an outdated plant in Perlach, Germany. The closure is expected to result in the loss of about 800 jobs.

Autoliv Inc., the world's leading maker of seat belts and air bags for cars, said it will shut its factory in Campbellfield, Australia, and shift production to China. The move is expected to save $2 million a year while costing 565 employees their jobs. Autoliv is based in Stockholm.


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