Aetna Shareholder Sues Over Bid Rejection

NEW YORK - Aetna Inc., the largest U.S. health insurer, was sued Wednesday by a shareholder who says the firm should have accepted a $10 billion takeover offer from Wellpoint Health Networks Inc. and ING Groep NV.The shareholder, Barnett Stepak, alleged that Aetna and its directors breached their fiduciary duty to shareholders by rejecting the $70 a share offer, which was made in February. The suit, filed in a New York state court, seeks class-action status on behalf of all Aetna shareholders.

An Aetna spokeswoman did not immediately return a call for comment.

Hartford, Conn.-based Aetna said March 13 that it had rejected the bid as inadequate and would separate its health and financial services businesses by forming two publicly traded companies. In an effort to boost its stock price, the company said, it will sell some assets, consider spinning off all or part of its Intelihealth Internet site and related consumer businesses, and cut costs.

- Bloomberg News

Chase Said to Offer Big Bonus at Fleming

LONDON - Signaling that Chase Manhattan Corp. may be nearing completion of its talks to buy the United Kingdom's Robert Fleming, the Daily Telegraph of London reported that the banking company has offered Fleming employees four times their current salaries as a bonus to stay on board.The U.S. banking company had originally offered a bonus of double their salaries, said the paper, quoting unnamed sources. Chase confirmed on March 23 that it was in talks to buy the closely held investment bank and asset manager.

Chase has been examining strategies to build up its asset management and investment banking businesses. In December, it closed its deal for the San Francisco investment bank Hambrecht & Quist, acquiring an equity underwriting business and a greater exposure to the high-growth technology firms of Silicon Valley. A source familiar with the current talks said Chase is interested in Fleming primarily for its Asian asset manager, Jardine Fleming.

A Chase spokesman had no comment on the report.

Hibernia in $12M Deal for Trade Finance

NEW ORLEANS - Hibernia Corp. said Wednesday that it has signed a pact with a Latin American economic development bank to provide $12 million of trade financing for Central America.The $15.3 billion-asset banking company agreed with the Central American Bank for Economic Integration, which is funded by the governments of Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica.

The agreement is for $10 million of medium-term financing to companies buying U.S. products for import into any of the five countries. An additional $2 million is to be available for short-term financing and other trade-related operations.

Stephen A. Hansel, president and chief executive officer of Hibernia, called the agreement "a sign of Hibernia's commitment to strengthening relationships with Central America."

- Louis Whiteman

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