SAN FRANCISCO -- Talk about late breaks. Just a day before the

Federal Trade Commission

was due to start its antitrust trial against


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, the FTC said it reached an agreement with the chipmaker.

If approved by the commission, the proposed settlement would resolve allegations that the FTC had filed June 8 against Intel, accusing the company of using its dominance in the chip business to compete unfairly against three companies. Details of the agreement were not disclosed.

The FTC filed a motion to withdraw the antitrust case. The four-member commission is expected to make a decision within the next several days.

Now, if only


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could be so lucky.

Novell May Be Caching On

Shares of networking software maker



climbed on rumors that the company is in talks with



to create a new line of caching products.


said if the rumors prove to be true, Novell could be "propelled to the top of this promising new market."

Caching allows organizations to store local versions of popular Web sites on office networks so the sites don't have to be downloaded from the Internet each time.

BMC's Buying Spree

BMC Software


said it would buy Israeli developer

New Dimension Software


for $52.50 per share in a cash deal worth more than $650 million.

BMC, which sells software that helps maintain computer systems, said it will record an in-process research-and-development charge of up to 30% of the purchase price and will amortize intangible assets over four to five years. BMC said it preferred to use cash for the acquisition because "we believe our stock is greatly undervalued."

The Houston-based company added, "We will also avoid the significant delays associated with stock-based pooling transactions. We hope to close this transaction within the next 45 days, so that we begin our fiscal 2000 with both

Boole & Babbage


and New Dimension Software as part of BMC Software's operations." BMC's acquisition of Boole & Babbage is expected to close by the end of March.

Mattel-Learning Co. Deal Delayed


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said it will close its acquisition of

The Learning Co.

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in May instead of April due to a longer-than-expected review by the

Securities and Exchange Commission


Toymaker Mattel said in December it would buy the children's software maker for about $3.04 billion in stock.

Poison Chips and Other Bits

Computer chipmaker

VLSI Technology


said its board had amended its poison-pill takeover defenses to make it harder for

Philips Electronics

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to take over VLSI in a $777 million hostile bid.

Communications chipmaker

Conexant Systems

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said it expects to report near-break-even earnings for the second quarter ending March 31 and to earn a profit the following quarter. That would be significantly better than

First Call's

consensus estimate for a 7-cent loss in the second quarter and a 3-cent loss in the third.