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Smoking deal closer
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The Independent Online
The US government is willing to discuss limits on tobacco regulation by the Food and Drug Administration as part of a global settlement of suits against the cigarette industry, according to a report on White House talks with the industry by the National Journal.

White House deputy counsel Bruce Lindsey told the magazine he had had "regular and frequent contact" with some of the 22 state attorneys-general suing the tobacco industry to recoup the costs of treating smoking-related ailments.

The aimed-for settlement would include Congressional restrictions on future suits in exchange for billions of dollars in annual payments. Republican leaders in Congress have said the White House must take the first step in any discussion of legislation. Mr Lindsey said the settlement plan should include payments to individual smokers and an industry commitment to the administration's goal of fighting cigarette use by minors, the magazine reported.

The tobacco companies are fighting the new Clinton administration regulations on tobacco in court, with a ruling expected as soon as tomorrow. Those FDA rules impose restrictions on cigarette advertising and other measures.

Portugal link for BT

PORTUGAL Telecom is expected to name BT and MCI Communications as its foreign partners.

Telefonica SA of Spain, whose choice of a US partner the Portuguese carrier has said will influence its own decision, said on Friday it had not yet concluded talks. Telefonica directors met in Madrid last week to discuss the issue. It is also expected to join with BT and MCI, after breaking with the AT&T Corp-led Unisource alliance of which it currently is a member.

Portugal Telecom is seeking a partner to help it protect its domestic market from increased competition for business communications and, in 1999, in public telephony. It needs allies with deep pockets to help fund expansion in Latin America, where it already has an alliance with Telecomunicacoes Brasilieiras of Brazil.

Blow to Nasdaq

BT is planning to list its common stock on the London and New York stock exchanges as Concert plc when its acquisition of MCI Communications is completed this autumn.

The decision is a blow to the US over-the-counter market, Nasdaq, in its contest with the larger NYSE. MCI has traded on Nasdaq since 1972 and is its fifth largest company. Its ascent into the corporate mainstream has been a source of pride for Nasdaq and helped the exchange gain credibility as an alternative trading system.

Peugeot in Argentina

FRENCH car manufacturer Peugeot Citroen may buy 25 per cent of carmaker Sevel Argentina in the next four months and take control of the company by the year 2000, the company said.

Peugeot and Sevel are expected to sign an agreement by the end of the month allowing the French carmaker to purchase the stake through two new issues of stock.

The acquisition would help Sevel, which makes Peugeot cas under licence, more than double production for exports within the Mercosur trade pact.

The disclosure of negotiations follows an announcement yesterday that Renault could take a controlling stake in Ciadea, the Argentine producer of Renault cars.

Sevel is now one of nine domestic carmakers in Argentina, as compared with three in 1992. Sevel had 21 per cent market share last year, behind Ciadea and Ford Argentina, the market leader.

Elsevier online

REED Elsevier's US subsidiary Cahners Publishing has announced it is developing online products for business and professional audiences in the next year, breaking with its tradition of expanding mainly through acquisition.

Cahners is targeting the entertainment industry, building on its roster of magazines, which include Variety and Broadcasting & Cable. It is looking for partnerships in Asia and Latin America to develop overseas.

Other magazines include Building Design and Construction, CabinetMaker and Electronic Business Today. Cahners also publishes CD-Roms and provides business research services.

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