Olympics help NBC, not China markets

China’s benchmark Shanghai Composite Index closed down 5.2 percent today, to its lowest level in 19 months, following a report of high wholesale inflation. The Beijing Olympics started Friday, so analysts now see little chance of a games-related rally. (AP in Yahoo! Finance) The Olympics are providing a boost for NBC, however. The network attracted the most Olympics viewers since the 1996 summer games in Atlanta, including 34.2 million for the opening ceremony. (The Wall Street Journal) Worldwide, about a billion people—or 15 percent of the world’s population—watched the show on opening day. An estimated 842 million of those viewers were in China. (Reuters)

UPS in talks to buy Dutch rival TNT

United Parcel Service is reportedly in preliminary talks to buy Dutch competitor TNT, Europe’s second-largest express delivery service, for $15 billion. The talks, which would expand UPS’s footprint in Europe, come as high gas prices are fueling consolidation speculation in the courier industry. UPS has a market value of about $66.2 billion; TNT is worth $14.4 billion. (The Daily Telegraph) TNT shares rose 26 percent last month after FedEx was reported to be in buyout talks, but fell after the talks fell apart. The deal is “very logical,” said Corne van Zeijl at SNS Asset Management. “I expect a positive share-price reaction.” (Bloomberg) TNT shares rose 6 percent in Europe early today. (Reuters)

Waste Management raises the stakes

Garbage-disposal giant Waste Management raised its offer for rival Republic Services Inc. by almost 10 percent, to $6.73 billion. The new offer of $37 a share represents a 32.6 percent premium on Republic’s share price before Waste Management’s initial bid last month. (Reuters) Waste Management sweetened the deal with a $250 million fee if the Justice Department blocked the merger, or a “ticking fee” that would increase in increments if antitrust regulators delayed it. (MarketWatch) Republic, in the process of acquiring Allied Waste Industries, rejected Waste Management’s last offer. Waste Management is pitching its new bid as a better deal for Republic shareholders than the Allied buy. (Houston Chronicle)

Verizon averts strike

Verizon reached tentative three-year labor contracts last night with two unions, representing 65,000 workers, that were preparing to strike today. A strike could have disrupted service from Virginia to Maine. The deal includes a 10.5 percent raise over three years, with Verizon continuing to pay all of the current workers’ and retirees’ health benefits. (The New York Times) A strike would have slowed Verizon’s roll-out of high-speed fiber optic cable. (AP in In other telecom news, Verizon rival AT&T helped push wireless handset maker LG to second-place in the U.S. market, after Motorola. Research In Motion’s BlackBerry for the first time captured 10 percent of the U.S. cellphone market. (Reuters)