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Qwest raises MCI bid to $8.94b

Proposal comes 2 days after firm said yes to Verizon

DENVER -- Qwest Communications International Inc. boosted its bid for MCI Inc. again yesterday, offering $8.94 billion just two days after the long-distance phone company accepted a sweetened $7.51 billion proposal from Verizon Communications Inc.

Soon after the new bid was disclosed, The Wall Street Journal reported that Verizon was exercising its right to force a vote by MCI investors on the merger before a special shareholder meeting scheduled for that purpose in May. Verizon spokesman Eric Rabe declined to comment.

MCI said the board will review Qwest's latest offer and ''respond accordingly." The new Qwest offer was accompanied by a strongly worded letter from chief executive Richard Notebaert to MCI's board accusing its members of ''favoring one bidder over another" to the detriment of MCI's stockholders.

The letter set a Monday deadline for a response before the offer would be withdrawn.

MCI's board has already twice rejected high-priced bids from Qwest, questioning its financial health and ability to compete against larger, well-heeled rivals such as SBC Communications Inc.

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