Monday, May 24, 1999

Markets are spanked at the close; the <I>New York Times</I> knits up its Net operations; Olivetti gets in a final word on the Telecom Italia deal.
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Markets

Investors unsheathed their ugly sticks today, beating up on stocks like kids at a pinata party. When the blindfolds came off, things didn't look pretty.

The damage was diffused among all the major proxies. The

Nasdaq Composite Index

plummeted 66.50 to 2453.64; the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

sank 174.61 to 10,654.67; the

S&P 500

gave up 23.64 to close at 1306.65; the smallish-cap

Russell 2000

lost 8.75 to 440.39; and

TheStreet.com Internet Sector

index backed up 46.70 to 576.68.

Transports got hammered, as did the banks amid serious downgrades of sector giants (see below).

The

New York Stock Exchange

may adopt a second, late trading session as early as July to compete with upstart electronic communications networks, according to exchange Chairman

Richard Grasso

. The NYSE had said it wouldn't extend trading hours before June 2000.

With most European markets closed for a holiday, the lonely London

FTSE

gave back early gains to finish down 0.5%. Asian markets were strong overnight, as Hong Kong's

Hang Seng

picked up 164.72, or 1.3%, to 12,436.86, and Tokyo's

Nikkei

added 97.51 to 16,390.49.

For more markets action and news, click

here.

Companies

Privately held rail and auto parts maker

Amsted Industries

started a $35-a-share tender offer for rival

Varlen

(VRLN)

.

Avis Rent A Car

(AVI)

is tripling its fleet by buying

Cendant's

(CD)

PHH

vehicle-leasing unit in a deal valued at $1.8 billion.

Coca-Cola

(KO) - Get Report

struck a new agreement with Britain's

Cadbury Schweppes

(CSG)

to buy the U.K. beverage company's soft drink brands in more than 100 countries, excluding

European Union

nations other than the U.K., Ireland and Greece. The deal is worth $1.1 billion, while the original deal, which the companies scrapped because of concerns that the EU would veto the deal on antitrust grounds, included Cadbury's brands worldwide and carried a price tag of $1.8 billion.

Not mincing any ratings,

Credit Suisse First Boston

downgraded

Chase Manhattan

(CMB)

,

Citigroup

(C) - Get Report

,

Bank One

(ONE) - Get Report

and

J.P. Morgan

(JPM) - Get Report

to sell from hold.

The

New York Times

(NYT) - Get Report

is consolidating its Internet operations -- consisting of nearly 50 web sites -- in a new unit called

Times Company Digital

.

Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory

(RMCF) - Get Report

urged its shareholders to reject

Whitman's Candies'

unsolicited tender offer of $5.75 a share, calling it "inadequate."

For more news on companies and stocks, click

here.

Tech

barnesandnoble.com

(BNBN:Nasdaq) has raised its IPO price range to $16 to $18 from $11 to $13.

Goldman Sachs

is the offering's lead underwriter.

Custom Tracks

(CUST)

was surged 15, or 26.3%, to 76 after

Joseph Charles & Associates

set an interim one-year price target of 230 for the Internet payment system developer.

Online florists

ftd.com

and

1-800-Flowers

filed Friday with the

Securities and Exchange Commission

to raise $90 million and $150 million, respectively, in initial public offerings.

Business management software company

PeopleSoft

(PSFT)

named Craig Conway president and COO. He'll take over day-to-day operations from Chairman and CEO

Dave Duffield

, who will retain those posts.

Online service provider

Prodigy Communications

(PRGY)

is teaming up with

Bell Atlantic

(BEL)

to provide high-speed Internet access in the Baby Bell's Northeastern service region. Prodigy will use Bell Atlantic's digital subscriber line technology, which transmits data 125 times faster than 56K modems.

Radisys

(RSYS) - Get Report

set plans to acquire fellow embedded computer systems firm

Texas Micro

(TEXM)

for about $115 million in stock.

For more tech news and commentary, click

here.

General News

NATO

war planes struck transformer stations in Novi Sad and Nis, a Belgrade power plant and 15 water pumps, creating what Serb authorities called a "humanitarian disaster." Separately, Russian envoy

Viktor Chernomyrdin

said that he has convinced Western officials to let some Yugoslavian troops remain in Kosovo to guard historic sites as part of a peace deal.

International

The U.K.'s

Bank of Ireland

(IRE)

and

Alliance & Leicester

said they're in talks that could lead to an $18.4 billion merger.

Olivetti

gave the final results of its 11th-hour bid for

Telecom Italia

(TI)

, saying that it had won about 51.9% of the company, a tad higher than the 51.02% announced Friday.

Britain's

Seton Scholl Healthcare

is buying

London International

(LONDY)

, the world's largest maker of condoms, for $984 million in stock.

For more international news and commentary, click

here.

Elsewhere

What's stranger than last night's plunging death of 33-year-old Canadian wrestler

Owen "Blue Blazer" Hart

? This is: A woman on board a Chinese express train yesterday gave sudden birth to her first child while sitting on the toilet. Screaming, she tore off the umbilical cord -- and watched the infant slip through the pipes and out bouncing onto the rails. It astonishingly suffered only minor cuts and bruises, and was retrieved by three security guards who happened upon the spectacle. Naturally, the guards had to defer the rescue until a close-following train had finished speeding over the child.

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