Credit Suisse First Boston is backing a hostile bid by NiSource Inc. for Columbia Energy Group with a $5.7 billion short-term syndicated loan.

NiSource, based in Merrillville, Ind., said Monday it has launched a $68-a-share bid for Columbia Energy. First Boston is advising NiSource's bid. Citigroup Inc.'s Salomon Smith Barney unit is advising Columbia Energy, based in Herndon, Va.

The interest rate on the loan is expected to come at leveraged levels- generally defined in the market as greater than the London interbank offered rate plus 125 basis points.

Oliver Richard 3d, Columbia Energy's chief executive, said in a letter to NiSource that the company was "not for sale" but did say Columbia Energy's board of directors would review the bid.

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