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Business digest

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 3, 2002

SDP LAYS OFF 70: Special Data Processing Corp., a Largo telemarketing company, laid off about 70 of its 2,350 workers this week. The company said some of the affected workers did not meet sales quotas. Others worked in campaigns that are being cut back because of the soft market for direct marketing.

Z-TEL SEEKS TO APPEAL NASDAQ FINDING: Z-Tel Technologies Inc. said it asked Nasdaq for a hearing to appeal Nasdaq's determination that the Tampa telephone company doesn't meet requirements for continued listing on the Nasdaq National Market. Z-Tel said in a statement Tuesday that it is "considering various courses of action to regain compliance, including a reverse stock split." Z-Tel's shares have closed below $1 a share since June 11, pressured by continued bearish sentiment on Wall Street and massive accounting irregularities at WorldCom. WorldCom and Z-Tel have a partnership under which WorldCom unit MCI sells a calling plan, the Neighborhood, which offers unlimited local and long-distance calls for a fixed monthly fee. Z-Tel's shares ended Tuesday at 72 cents a share, down 11 cents or 13 percent.

EDS LAYS OFF 2,000: Electronic Data Systems Corp. said Tuesday it has laid off 2,000 workers, or 1.4 percent of its work force, saying the cuts were needed to balance its employment levels with ongoing contracts. EDS, which has 140,000 employees worldwide, said most cuts were in North America. It said it periodically hires or fires workers to match them with available work. The computer services company in Plano, Texas, denied that the cuts were related to its work for WorldCom Inc. EDS has an 11-year contract with WorldCom signed in 1999.

BUSH DEFENDS BUSINESS EXPERIENCE: President Bush defended in a snappish tone Tuesday his own business experience with a corporation accused of fishy accounting. "Everything I do is fully disclosed; it's been fully vetted," the president said as he paused to speak with reporters during a church appearance in Wisconsin. "Any other questions?" Bush was responding to a journalist who asked for his reaction to New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, who said in Tuesday's newspaper that Bush's recent campaign against corporate malfeasance draws on "firsthand experience of the subject." Bush, in 1989, was on the board of directors and audit committee of Harken Energy when the company masked $10-million in losses by reporting a profit on the sale of a subsidiary to a group of Harken insiders borrowing money from the company itself.

FIDELITY, IBM TO MANAGE EMPLOYEE BENEFITS: Fidelity Investments and IBM formed a venture Tuesday to manage the employee benefit plans of other companies. Executives of both companies said they saw a promising business in selling payroll and benefits services to large employers, including government agencies and large nonprofit organizations. Fidelity would provide the benefits expertise and IBM the computers and database.

US AIRWAYS TO MISS DEBT PAYMENTS: US Airways Group Inc. deferred $17-million in debt payments on Boeing Co. 737-300, 737-400 and 757-200 airplanes to help the carrier speed up talks with creditors, a Standard & Poor's report said. The company confirmed that those are the aircraft affected by the deferrals, after declining Monday to say which debt was involved. US Airways spokesman David Castelveter wouldn't comment on the deferral amount.

STEWART CANCELS TV APPEARANCE: Martha Stewart, who is the focus of an insider trading inquiry, canceled today's scheduled appearance on CBS's Early Show because she's unable to answer questions about the investigation, a spokeswoman said. Early Show, the morning television program that's part of CBS's news division, has said it will continue to question Stewart about the investigation during her regularly scheduled appearances. Stewart is a weekly "lifestyle" contributor to the show, providing cooking and other homemaking tips.

U.S. FINANCIAL ANALYSIS DERAILED: Financial analysis of U.S. companies is inaccurate because U.S. law distorts balance sheets, the head of a global accountancy body said. David Tweedie, head of the International Accounting Standards Board, told British legislators that U.S. rules allowing executive share options not to be counted as liabilities prevent investors from obtaining an accurate financial picture of U.S. companies. An analyst can "make a guess" at a U.S. company's liabilities and form a "rough estimate, but he won't be accurate," Tweedie said.

TREASURY NOTES RISE AGAIN: Bonds rose Tuesday as investors sought the relative security of treasuries amid falling stock prices. The price of the benchmark 10-year Treasury note rose 3/8 point, or $3.75 per $1,000 in face value. Its yield, which moves in the opposite direction, fell to 4.73 percent, down from late Monday's level of 4.78 percent. The 30-year Treasury bond rose 19/32 point to yield 5.44 percent, down from 5.48 percent on Monday.

PFIZER NAMES NEW PRESIDENTS: Pfizer Inc. said Tuesday it named Pat Kelly as president of its U.S. pharmaceuticals operations and Ian Read president of pharmaceuticals operations in Europe and Canada. The New York drugmaker also said Chuck Hardwick will become president, worldwide corporate affairs, succeeding Lou Clemente, who will retire Aug. 1.

JUICER IMPORTER FINED: A federal judge has ordered a San Diego importer of juicers to pay a $300,000 fine for waiting too long to report to the government that the juicers were breaking apart and causing injuries. The ruling against Mirama Enterprises Inc., which does business as Aroma Housewares Co., is the first time a court has fined a company for violating federal rules requiring firms to report dangerous product defects, the Consumer Product Safety Commission said Tuesday. Past civil penalties the agency has imposed have been part of settlement agreements with companies.

TEAMSTERS TAKES OVER NORTHWEST LOCAL: Teamsters president James P. Hoffa is trying to block a threat to his union by seizing control of the bargaining unit that represents 11,500 Northwest Airlines flight attendants. Hoffa placed Teamsters Local 2000 under trusteeship Monday, ousting President Danny Campbell and the rest of the local's executive board, which Hoffa said failed to aggressively oppose an organizing effort to create the Professional Flight Attendants Association (PFAA). The new trustee, Mollie Reiley, vowed to wage a vigorous campaign against PFAA organizers. She also will run Local 2000's day-to-day operations.

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