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Sales of existing US single-family homes sank for the fourth month in a row in October, falling a sharp 6.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.79 million units, the National Association of Realtors said. Sales were down in all parts of the country as rising mortgage rates took a bite out of demand. Despite the drop, existing-home sales are expected to total a record 5.2 million units this year.

Redback Networks, a high-speed Internet-access equipment supplier agreed to acquire closely held Siara Systems in a deal valued at $4.3 billion, company officials said. Stockholders of Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Redback will own 62 percent of the new entity; Siara stockholders 38 percent. Siara, based in Mountain View, Calif., is a networking and software firm that currently sells no products, but is expected to begin testing some in mid-2000.

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The stage was set for a direct appeal to shareholders after German conglomerate Mannesmann AG rejected another hostile takeover bid by the British telecommunications giant Vodafone AirTouch. Mannesmann executives called the $125 billion offer "totally insufficient" but expressed hope that the companies could continue to cooperate in harmony on three existing joint ventures. Vodafone's first bid was for $106 billion. Vodafone said it now would present its "last offer" to Mannesmann stockholders "as quickly as possible."

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society