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Reuters Group

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and

Aether Systems

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said they have entered a European wireless data venture that will concentrate on financial markets. Aether would hold an initial 60% stake in the company and invest $100 million in cash, while Reuters would control the remaining 40%, making a $22 million investment. The company, to be based in Britain, would create and manage wireless data systems for professional and retail investors.

Separately, Reuters said it was considering an IPO for its

Instinet

online brokerage division.

Mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures

Brocade Communications

(BRCD)

said that

Hewlett-Packard

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would use Brocade's Silkworm switches in its data storage networks project.

CMGI

(CMGI)

said it would receive a 5.4% interest in

Kana

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due to Kana's $4.2 billion purchase of CMGI's minority investment in

Silknet

(SILK)

.

Hubbell

(HUBB)

said it entered a deal to sell its Wavepacer digital subscriber product-line assets to

ECI Telecom

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.

Phone.com

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said it has agreed to purchase Britain-based

Paragon Software

, in a deal valued at $500 million. According to the terms, Paragon shareholders would receive roughly 3.6 million shares of Phone.com and $7.5 million in cash.

Earnings/revenue reports and previews

(

Earnings estimates from First Call/Thomson Financial; earnings reported on a diluted basis unless otherwise specified.

)

Cognizant

(CTSH)

posted fourth-quarter earnings of 31 cents a share, a penny better than the four-analyst estimate and up from the year-ago 27-cent profit.

Lincare Holdings

(LNCR)

posted fourth-quarter earnings of 47 cents a share, in line with the six-analyst estimate and up from the year-ago 40 cents.

Navigant International

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posted fourth-quarter earnings of 10 cents a share, in line with the two-analyst estimate and up from the year-ago loss of 5 cents.

StaffMark

(STAF)

reported fourth-quarter earnings of 18 cents a share, missing the eight-analyst estimate of 19 cents and down from the year-ago 41 cents.

Offerings and stock actions

Merrill Lynch

priced 14 million shares of

Buy.com

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at $13 each, above the expected range of $10 to $12. The company is an Internet retailer of goods ranging from computers to books.

ING Barings

priced a 4 million-share IPO for

Fastnet

(FSST)

at $12 a share.

Network Solutions

(NSOL)

said it set it 7.73 million-share secondary offering at $247 a share.

Miscellany

Christie's

dropped its auction commissions, sparking a possible price war with rival

Sotheby's

(BID)

, reported in

The Wall Street Journal

. According to

The Journal

, Christie's decision to cut the commissions would make art more expensive to buy and cheaper to sell.

The tobacco industry is expected to be hit with another class-action lawsuit claiming that major U.S. cigarette companies have illegally fixed prices since the 1980s,

The Wall Street Journal

reported. According to

The Journal

,

Philip Morris

(MO)

,

RJ Reynolds

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,

Brown & Williamson

,

Lorillard

and

Liggett

are expected to be named in the proceedings.

For analysis of the market's preopen tone and trends, see the Wake-Up Call, published separately.