Qwest Communications International Inc. on Thursday raised its takeover offer for MCI Inc.to $8.45 billion, adding nearly a half-billion dollars to its bid to break up the long-distance phone company's planned merger with Verizon Communications Inc.

The sweetened offer, worth about $1.8 billion more than the current value of MCI's agreement with Verizon, was presented to MCI's board on Wednesday.

MCI said it expects to respond to the offer by March 28.

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