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"Maybe there'll be a simple, innocent explanation. I don't think so, because I think we would have offered that up already." -- White House press secretary Mike McCurry, trying to explain the Clinton-Lewinsky relationship. Later, he said he goofed when he made the statement.EDITED BY ROBERT MCNATT & LARRY LIGHTReturn to top

BELL ATLANTIC, GTE COME A-COURTIN' SPRINT

IN EARLY FEBRUARY, SPRINT Chairman William Esrey declared publicly and loudly that the country's third-largest long-distance company was not for sale. However, just because he doesn't want to sell doesn't mean other companies don't want to buy.

GTE and Bell Atlantic are now independently considering bids for the long-distance carrier that could come within the next several weeks, say sources close to both companies. The two telecom giants are talking to investment bankers about all-stock bids for Sprint that would likely exceed $30 billion.

The strategic value of a deal is compelling for both companies. GTE has been pushing into the long-distance business, but its effort has been expensive and has garnered only 1.7 million customers. Meanwhile, Bell Atlantic, which recently merged with Nynex, has long wanted to expand nationally.

Still, a Sprint deal is far from certain. France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom, which together own 20% of the U. S. carrier, could block it. If Esrey is willing to sell at all, he will demand a hefty premium. That would likely mean at least 25% over Sprint's current share price, about 59. Bell Atlantic and Sprint declined to comment. A GTE spokesman could not be reached.By Peter Elstrom EDITED BY ROBERT MCNATT & LARRY LIGHTReturn to top

FRENCH FRIES OR CHINA GROWTH?

HERE'S SOME REAL OVER-THE-COUNTER marketing. As a Mar. 2 deadline for a popular IRA-like savings plan nears in Canada, the Bank of Montreal and McDonald's are teaming up to pitch mutual funds. Diners at 400 Golden Arches outlets in Ontario recently got brochures asking: "Would you like some mutual funds with that?" Their reward for filling out the flier: a free coffee, muffin, and telemarketer's call.

Mixing Macs and mutual funds, some marketing profs say, may not make for a happy meal. The University of Toronto's Scott Hawkins worries that the venture will hurt the bank's image. Others doubt the promo will do McDonald's any good, saying funds don't appeal to its market as do, say, kids' movies. Another issue: Are naifs being lured into risky investments? Bank officials argue that they have many conservative funds. Besides, they say, McDonald's customers, a societal cross-section, are as sophisticated as anyone.

The bankers, encouraged, expect 75,000 responses. Harris Bank in Chicago, owned by Bank of Montreal, is mulling the idea in the U.S. with someone. But so far, McDonald's in the States isn't biting.By Joseph Weber EDITED BY ROBERT MCNATT & LARRY LIGHTReturn to top

DUMPING A STOCK BEFORE ITS TIME

SOME MUTUAL-FUND FAMILIES have stumbled recently, having the bad fortune to dump their Computer Sciences stock before Computer Associates launched a $108-a-share hostile bid on Feb. 17.

Among the big losers is Fidelity Investments. It held 5.7 million shares of CSC a year ago and sold all but 429,000 of them by November. The situation is even worse at Janus, which said it sold its entire CSC stake of 6.1 million shares in 1997. That's bad news. CSC was trading in the low 80s in early 1998.

Still, there are some likely winners. Stockpicker G. Kenneth Heebner's New England Growth Fund is sitting pretty with 818,000 CSC shares. The nicest chunk of change, however, may accrue to American Express Financial Advisors, which includes the IDS funds. On Dec. 31, it held more than 4.9 million CSC shares. An AmEx executive wouldn't say if any CSC has since been unloaded. But if it hasn't, that stake is now worth an additional $120 million.By Robert Barker EDITED BY ROBERT MCNATT & LARRY LIGHTReturn to top


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