Weekend Report: BP Amoco Said in 'Serious Talks' on Buying Arco

Renault takes a stake in poor old Nissan; LVMH, Gucci, Telecom Italia and Olivetti stay at it; a virus threatens the Web.
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All around the world this weekend, companies are heeding the

Beatles'

admonition to come together, right now.

The biggest potential deal would be a

BP Amoco

(BPA)

acquisition of

Atlantic Richfield

(ARC) - Get Report

. Citing people familiar with the situation,

The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition

reports that BP Amoco is in "serious talks" to buy Arco. The merger would be valued above Arco's current market capitalization of $21 billion, the

Journal

said.

BP Amoco was formed through the $48.2 billion combination of

British Petroleum

and

Amoco

-- the largest industrial merger ever -- which was completed just three months ago.

In less surprising combo news, France's

Renault

inked a deal to buy a major stake in troubled

Nissan

(NSANY)

of Japan. Renault will pay 643 billion yen, or $5.4 billion, for a 37% stake in Nissan and a 23% stake in Nissan's truck-making affiliate,

Nissan Diesel Motor

.

Returning to that ongoing

pas de deux

between European luxury giants:

Gucci

(GUC)

agreed to extend talks with ardent suitor

LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton

(LVMHY)

until April 6. The companies' court-ordered discussions had been slated to end Tuesday. Gucci, seeking a protective "white knight," recently sold a 40% stake to

Pinault Printemps

of France. Never-say-die LVMH sold $1.65 billion worth of

Diageo

(DEO) - Get Report

shares to finance its Gucci bid.

Telecom Italia

(TI)

, looking to fend off a hostile bid from

Olivetti

, plans a cash offer for the 40% of

Telecom Italia Mobile

it doesn't own. TI had been planning a stock swap with TIM but decided this new course would create more value for shareholders.

Stocks in Tokyo were higher in early trading, with the

Nikkei 225

up 83.73, or 0.5%, to 16,100.72. South Korea's

Seoul Composite

was down 1.7%, however.

Melissa Virus Threatens Web

A vicious computer virus dubbed Melissa has already hurt systems at

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

,

Lucent

(LU)

and elsewhere and now threatens to spread swiftly across the Web, according to reports this weekend.

The virus is sent via emails with the subject line "An Important Message From

name" and includes a Microsoft Word attachment. The body of the email says, "Here's the document you asked for. Don't show it to anyone else ;-)." If the attachment is opened in Word 97 or Word 2000, the virus sends emails with infected attachments to the first 50 entries in the user's electronic address book.

More information is available at

www.cert.org/advisories/CA-99-04-Melissa-Macro-Virus.html.

Fighting Intensifies in Yugoslavia

The

NATO

alliance Sunday began a wider series of airstrikes against Yugoslav military targets, including Yugoslav combat troops in and around Kosovo. The escalation comes as a NATO official warned that ethnic Albanians in Kosovo face "a major humanitarian disaster ... the likes of which we have not seen in Europe since the closing days of World War II."

A U.S. F-117 Stealth fighter-bomber crashed near Belgrade Saturday evening. NATO said on Sunday that it had not yet determined the cause. The pilot was rescued and returned safely to a NATO base. The allies denied Yugoslav claims that other NATO aircraft have been lost.

In the Papers

Barron's

takes a look at an array of troubles besetting

Paloma Partners

, the secretive hedge fund run by

Donald Sussman

. The piece notes Sussman's past troubles with the

Securities and Exchange Commission

and reports that the fund's redemptions have increased after a tough 1998.

Elsewhere,

Barron's

writes a skeptical piece on highflying

ISS Group

(ISSX)

and offers a bullish take on homebuilder

Champion Enterprises

(CHB)

. There's also a cover story on golf, if you like that sort of thing.

The New York Times'

Money & Business section fronts a story on the downside of using of electronic communications networks in online trading. Written by Market Watch columnist Gretchen Morgenson, the story maintains that ECNs offer inferior prices vs.

Nasdaq

trades on 8 out of 10 stocks.

The

Times'

main business feature looks at

Prince Walid bin Talal

of Saudi Arabia, the peripatetic multibillionaire investor who owns big chunks of

Citigroup

(C) - Get Report

,

Apple

(APPL)

,

AOL

(AOL)

and -- oops --

Planet Hollywood

(PHL)

, among many others.

The story strains to produce controversy by noting that the prince makes a lot of money from speculative trading, despite his reputation as a buy-and-hold investor. But it leans more toward

Ken Auletta

-style, great-man-of-finance observations like: "The strongest impression left by Prince Walid is of his fierce pride in his decisions."