Feb 15 The following are the top stories on the New York Times business pages. Reuters has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy.
* The U.S. airline industry took a decisive step toward greater concentration on Thursday with the announcement that American Airlines, a unit of AMR Corp, and US Airways Group Inc had agreed to merge, forming the nation's biggest airline.
* Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway Inc and Brazilian private equity firm 3G Capital agreed to buy ketchup maker H.J.Heinz Co for $23 billion on Thursday.
* European economies shrank in the fourth quarter at their fastest rate since the depth of the financial crisis in 2009, new data showed on Thursday, with both strong and weak countries falling short of expectations and raising anxieties of a longer, deeper recession.
* Blackstone Group said it would keep most of its $550 million with SAC Capital Advisors for three more months, as the hedge fund's clients faced a regularly scheduled quarterly deadline on Thursday to decide whether to continue investing.
* Budweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev moved on Thursday to rescue its $20.1 billion proposed takeover of Grupo Modelo of Mexico, the maker of Corona beer, by offering concessions aimed at persuading American antitrust authorities to let the deal proceed.
* Activist shareholder Carl Icahn has built up a 12.98 percent stake, or 14 million shares, in Herbalife Ltd, a nutritional supplements company, according to a regulatory filing on Thursday.
* U.S. drugmaker Merck & Co Inc agreed to pay $688 million to settle lawsuits claiming that it had harmed investors by delaying the release of unfavorable study results for its cholesterol drug Vytorin, the company announced on Thursday.
* General Motors Co said its profit in the fourth quarter increased slightly, as continued losses in Europe offset positive results in North America.
* The Moscow Exchange, better known by its original name, Micex, is scheduled to begin trading on Friday on its own trading platform. The listing drew interest from specialized investors in financial services companies and institutional investors in the United States and Europe, a financial industry official said on Thursday.