Oil giants in record merger

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THE WORLD'S biggest merger was unveiled yesterday as the US oil giants Exxon and Mobil joined forces in a $250bn (pounds 154bn) deal. The merger capped an extraordinary day that saw takeover deals announced with a total value of nearly $330bn.

Exxon Mobil will be the world's third largest company by value behind Microsoft and General Electric of the US, and the world's biggest business by sales, with combined revenues of $203bn.

The past fortnight has seen a feeding frenzy across the world's financial markets with a string of mega-mergers spanning the oil, pharmaceuticals, Internet, banking and engineering sectors.

The wave of merger activity has helped to revive world stock markets, with Wall Street above 9,000 points and back near its record high.

Two deals unveiled on this side of the Atlantic yesterday looked positively modest compared with Exxon Mobil but are some of Europe's biggest mergers. The French oil group Total is merging with PetroFina, of Belgium, in a deal worth $39bn, while the chemicals companies Hoechst, of Germany, and Rhone Poulenc, of France, are combining their pharmaceuticals business in a $38bn merger.

On Monday, Germany's Deutsche Bank announced it was taking over Bankers Trust of the US for $10bn while last week, Siebe and BTR of Britain merged in a deal worth pounds 8.7bn.

The US is still adjusting to the biggest takeover yet of an Internet business - America OnLine's $4.1bn acquisition of Netscape Communications.

Exxon, which trades under the Esso name in Britain, and Mobil together have about 25 per cent of the UK petrol market and employ a total of 4,100 people in Britain.

European competition authorities are likely to force Mobil to dismantle a $5bn joint venture with BP-Amoco in petrol and lubricants retailing. Total and Fina have a market share of about 8 per cent.

Business, page 18