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Aetna has agreed to pay $82.5 million to settle a class-action shareholder lawsuit accusing the insurer of misleading investors about its financial status.

Aetna, the nation's largest insurer, did not admit any wrongdoing in the settlement which was announced Tuesday.

The agreement is subject to court approval and includes all investors who bought Aetna stock from March 6, 1997, through Sept. 29, 1997. The court will decide how the money will be distributed.

The lawsuit accused Aetna of failing to disclose problems that the Hartford, Conn.-based company was having in mid-1997 relating to its purchased U.S. Healthcare which were affecting the company's finances.

Durable goods orders up 2.9%

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Orders to U.S. factories for big-ticket manufactured goods rose by a solid 2.9 percent in August, reflecting stronger demand for airplanes, electronics and industrial machinery.

That pushed up orders for durable goods -- items expected to last at least three years -- to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $216.1 billion last month, the Commerce Department said today.

The increase, the third in the last four months, was bigger than the 2.5 percent gain many analysts were expecting and followed a record decline in durable-goods orders the month before.

Andreessen files Loudcloud IPO

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Marc Andreessen, 29, who became a poster boy for instant Internet wealth as the co-founder of Netscape Communications, filed his plans Tuesday to strike it rich a second time with his latest venture, Loudcloud Inc.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Web services company, formed a year ago, will try to raise an estimated $150 million in an initial public offering, or IPO. Loudcloud didn't specify how many shares will be sold or establish a price range for its stock, which will trade under the ticker symbol "LDCL."

When Netscape went public at $28 per share in 1995, it ranked among the hottest IPOs in Wall Street history. Although the company struggled before its sale to America Online, Andreessen was one of the first Internet pioneers to become a multimillionaire before he was old enough to rent a car. In a survey released this month, Fortune magazine estimated Andreessen's net worth at $498 million.

Investors are already betting that financial lightning will strike twice at Loudcloud, which provides a range of services and products that help companies build and maintain their Web sites.

Venture capitalists have invested $188 million in Loudcloud so far. Andreessen owns an 18.2 percent stake in the start-up.

AOL, NTT DoCoMo join forces

TOKYO (AP) -- America Online and Japanese cellular phone giant NTT DoCoMo announced a $100 million deal today that allies the world's largest provider of fixed-line Internet services with the largest mobile-access Internet company.

The deal gives NTT DoCoMo a 42.3 percent stake in AOL Japan -- making it the company's largest shareholder. AOL Japan, currently 50 percent owned by AOL and 40 percent by Japanese trading house Mitsui and Co., has been having difficulty attracting subscribers.

It gives AOL a break into i-mode -- access to the Internet through cellular phones. I-mode is wildly popular in Japan, where the relative scarcity of personal computers has stunted AOL's growth.

FTC ends probe of Intel

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- The Federal Trade Commission notified Intel Corp. on Tuesday that the agency had decided to end a broad three-year investigation into the company's business practices without taking any further legal action "at this time."

In August, Intel settled an FTC complaint alleging that management had illegally threatened to withhold critical product information from three companies -- Intergraph, Compaq and Digital Equipment -- that refused to license their technology to the chip maker.

In other business news

Rochester-based Bausch & Lomb announced a $26.2 million acquisition of Woehlk Contact Lens GmbH, a unit of Carl Zeiss based in Germany, as part of a plan to open additional distribution channels in Europe, the company said.

FleetBoston Financial, New England's biggest bank, is in talks to buy Summit Bancorp, New Jersey's No. 1 bank, as it seeks to boost its position in the Northeast, the Wall Street Journal Interactive edition reported.

Nordstrom Inc. agreed to buy French clothing company Faconnable SA for about $170 million in cash and stock to gain worldwide control of one of the upscale department-store chain's top-selling brands.

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