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Dutch chemicals group Akzo Nobel agreed to acquire British rival Courtaulds for $3.1 billion in a deal that would catapult it to the top of the world paint industry.

* MCI Communications Corp. named Michael Rowny acting chief financial officer as of May 1, replacing Douglas Maine, who resigned a week ago to become finance chief of International Business Machines Corp. Rowny will continue to oversee MCI’s international alliances.

* CSX Corp. agreed to sell its barge unit to a joint venture it formed with closely held Vectura Group Inc. for $850 million in cash and stock in a deal that would create North America’s largest inland water fleet. CSX, primarily a rail company, would retain a 34% interest in the new company, to be called American Commercial Lines.

* Kmart Corp. said it plans to convert more than half of its 2,126 stores to the “Big Kmart” format by the end of the year. The retailer has converted 787 of its stores to the larger format.

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