AT&T CEO says 'never say never' on acquisition

ATLANTA - AT&T Inc., the nation's largest telecommunications company, isn't planning another acquisition of a major competitor, but it can't rule one out either, its chief executive, Edward E. Whitacre Jr., said Monday.

''You can never say never,'' Whitacre said in an interview with The Associated Press.

But Whitacre said San Antonio-based AT&T, which completed its

$86 billion purchase of Atlanta-based BellSouth in December, is focused on integrating the two companies and not another acquisition target.

''We don't have any in mind,'' Whitacre said, referring to another acquisition. He added, ''From our standpoint, we like where we are.''

During a stop in Atlanta to meet with business leaders, Whitacre said the integration of BellSouth into the AT&T fold is going ''OK so far,'' but there have been some hiccups with merging some systems operated by the two companies.

Bush makes fresh pitch for free-trade policies

WASHINGTON - Free-trade policies that make it easier for U.S. companies to sell their products are important to the economy's vitality, President Bush said Monday as he projected a year of good - though somewhat slower - economic growth.

Bush, in his annual economic report to Congress, made a fresh pitch for breaking down trade barriers and energizing global trade talks. He also called on Congress to extend his authority to negotiate free-trade deals, a request likely to face an uphill battle in the Democratic-controlled Congress.

''This authority is essential to completing good trade agreements,'' Bush wrote in the introduction to the report. ''The Congress must renew it if we are to improve our competitiveness in the global economy.''

- From wire reports