Cash-Rich Seek Deals; May Emerge Mightier from Downturn

The weakening economy that’s inspiring many companies to trim down to survive is leading Corporate America’s powerhouses in the other direction: Fatten up while smaller competitors are struggling.

The giants of U.S. industry, such as General Electric Co and Tyco International Ltd., are starting to use their deep pockets to continue to grow, either through acquisitions or by expanding existing operations, when many others are being forced to pull back.

The Sept. 11 air attacks have accelerated the process by driving many companies into a lockdown survival mode, leading to a lengthening of the economic downturn that was already taking hold. That could lead to a sudden boost in the control of key markets by some of the largest companies, market experts said.

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