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Federal regulators approved a joint venture Friday between SBC Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp. to create the nation's second-largest wireless telephone service.

The joint venture creates a domestic wireless business with more than 19 million customers, second only to Verizon Communications. The new company will have $10.2 billion in combined revenue, said BellSouth spokesman Jeff Battcher.

Approval by the Federal Communications Commission was "the final hurdle for the joint venture. We're anticipating closure the first of next week," he said.

The companies will transfer control of their wireless licenses to a newly formed entity known as Alloy, the FCC said.

Alloy has been the working name of the deal and a new name will be announced next week, Battcher said.


HARTFORD, CONN. (AP) - Consumer advocates on Friday recommended rejection of the multibillion-dollar merger of Northeast Utilities and Consolidated Edison Inc., saying regulators aren't demanding enough savings for consumers.

The Department of Utility Control last week issued a draft decision to approve the $7.5 billion merger, but required the companies to offer a variety of savings for customers.

Consumer advocates say the deal offers no real savings and doesn't benefit the state, while the companies say the draft deal benefits only consumers and not shareholders.

In a 16-page filing, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said that by imposing 50 conditions on the deal, the DPUC draft itself "makes a strong case for rejecting the merger."


PEORIA, ILL. (AP) - Caterpillar Inc. said Friday it expects third-quarter earnings to fall short of expectations, sending its stock down sharply in after-hours trading.

In a statement issued after regular trading hours, Caterpillar said weaknesses in foreign currency and a soft domestic construction market were among reasons it expects third-quarter earnings to be 15 percent below the 68 cents per share analysts had predicted. Third-quarter earnings will be released Oct. 17.

In Friday trading, Caterpillar stock fell 18.8 cents to finish at $33.812 a share on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares fell to $31 in after-hours trading.

Despite the expected third-quarter shortfall, Caterpillar said it still expects year-end revenue to improve slightly over the $19.7 billion recorded in 1999. It also expects a moderate increase over last year's profit of $946 million, or $2.63 per share.


LITTLE ROCK (AP) - Some Wal-Mart customers soon will be able to sample a new discount item -- Wal-Mart's own brand of wine.

The world's largest retail chain will begin selling Alcott Ridge Vineyards worldwide next Thursday, teaming up with E&J Gallo Winery of Modesto, Calif., to produce the spirits at an affordable price.


Buffalo stocks fell this week, led by General Motors Corp., Moog Inc. and Motorola Inc.

The Buffalo Bloomberg Stock Index fell 1.01, or less than 1 percent, to 187.03 this week.

Decliners outnumbered gainers 31 to 20, with one stock unchanged. The employee-weighted list of 52 companies with operations in the region set a 52-week closing high of 210.50 on March 27, and a 52-week closing low of 160.20 on July 14.

GM fell $3.25 to $65. The shares have fallen 14 percent since Sept. 7.

Moog fell $2 to $30.13. Moog said this week it had agreed to buy an electric-motor division from Eaton Corp. for an undisclosed amount to broaden its product line.

Motorola fell $3.63 to $28.75. The semiconductor maker's shares have fallen 40 percent this year.

Among this week's gainers, American depositary receipts of HSBC Holdings, the U.K.'s No. 1 bank, rose $2.15 to $71.40.

Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc., which owns The Buffalo News, rose $8,700 to $64,400.

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