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Verizon Communications said Sunday it would explore a sale or spinoff of its domestic directories-publishing unit.

The company said it would seek a deal to help it boost value for shareholders, improve financial flexibility and cut debt.

Verizon will soon close its $8.6 billion purchase of long-distance telephone company MCI.

Verizon Information Services, which provides sales and publishes services for about 1,750 telephone directories in 44 states and Washington, D.C., had operating revenues of $3.6 billion in 2004.

Blue Cross

Bank approved for consumer plans

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association wants to launch a bank that will administer its consumer-directed health plans, a responsibility now shared by third-party financial institutions.

The association said today its board has approved development of the Blue Healthcare Bank.

The aim is to simplify the administration of health savings accounts and similar plans offered by Blue Cross insurers throughout the United States, said Chief Executive Scott Serota.

The bank, which would be based in Salt Lake City, would give those enrolled in Blue Cross plans a centralized financial institution to monitor and access their accounts, Serota said.

Creation of the bank is subject to regulatory approval.

Health savings accounts (HSAs) can be set up by consumers who have high-deductible insurance plans.

Both workers and their employers can deposit money into the accounts, which grow tax free and can be used to pay for medical expenses.

Video-game ads

Players influenced, study concludes

Ads in video games can have a major influence on whether people buy products and recommend them to friends, a study by Nielsen Entertainment concludes.

Previous studies have shown that static ads in games, such as a billboard or blimp, or integrated advertising, such as a car a player must drive, can improve awareness of a brand in the same way as a 30-second TV spot.

But the study released today shows that when ads are on screen long enough and are highly integrated in the game, they can make players feel more positive about a product.

Game publishers have been trying to find a standard measurement of awareness so they can charge in the same way that television and other advertising is sold.

Nielsen’s study included 1,350 male gamers between the ages of 13 and 44.

The study found that when ads were relevant to the game, the ads could remain on screen longer and resulted in a high percentage of brand awareness.

Players surveyed after 20 minutes of game playing also said they would be highly likely to recommend an advertised product to a friend.

Virgin Mobile

$8 billion merger with cable giant near

Richard Branson’s Virgin Mobile is to merge with cable operator NTL in an $8 billion deal that would create a major cable-television company able to take on Rupert Murdoch’s British Sky Broadcasting Group, the Sunday Telegraph reported.

Neither Virgin nor NTL would comment on the report Sunday but indicated there likely would be a statement today.

The new Virgin media group, the Sunday Telegraph said, would be the first company in Britain to offer a package of cell and fixed-line telephones, pay television and high-speed Internet services, and would show television programs on Virgin cellphones.

EU Information Society

Rush expected for “.eu” rollout

The European Union expects a surge of applications this week when its “.eu” regional domain name opens for registration.

“I expect a real rush, several hundred thousand in the first few days,” EU Information Society Commissioner Viviane Reding told reporters last week.

Reding and other supporters say such a domain will help promote European identity and create greater visibility for pan-European e-commerce. Businesses now must use domains for their particular country, such as “.fr” for France, or a global one like “.com,” which is seen by some as mostly a U.S. suffix.

Registration for .eu names begins Friday, and such names can be used immediately.


Exec joins call for Net delivery fee

The chief technology officer for BellSouth said Internet service providers could charge Internet companies to deliver some Web sites faster than others.

William Smith also told reporters it seems reasonable his company should be allowed to charge transmission fees to a competitor delivering phone service over the Net, The Washington Post reported.

Smith likened his suggestion to business practices used by airlines, selling coach and first-class tickets, or shipping companies providing two-day or six-day delivery. Different classes of service have different prices.

Compiled from The Associated Press, Bloomberg News, Reuters and MarketWatch