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Business today

By Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 30, 2003

BREED CEO STEPS DOWN: Breed Technologies Inc. CEO John Riess resigned Friday, the day the sale of the auto parts manufacturer to Carlyle Management group was finalized. B. Edward Ewing, Carlyle's chief executive, is now CEO at Breed. Breed, which makes automobile air bags, steering wheels and seat belts, employs about 600 people at its plant and headquarters located at 5300 Old Tampa Highway in Lakeland.

LAY, SKILLING NOT OFF THE HOOK: A federal judge says former Enron Corp. chairman Kenneth Lay and CEO Jeffrey Skilling must face lawsuits accusing them of hiding the energy trader's debts and inflating earnings. Enron filed for bankruptcy protection in 2001 after shares of company had lost $68-billion in value from their peak in August 2000.

UPS GOES TO THE GROUND: United Parcel Service Inc. expanded its same-day home pick-up service to include ground shipments after rival FedEx Corp. gained market share in parcels shipped by truck. Customers can use the Internet or telephone to schedule a parcel pickup that day or for a later date. Packages for ground shipping previously had to be taken to drop-off locations and pickups were only made for overnight air shipments.

CURRENCY FRAUD CHARGED: The Commodity Futures Trading Commission has charged Keith Elsesser and Phoenix Global Trading Inc. with operating a foreign currency fraud from offices at 5900 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, during 2001 and 2002. The civil suit says Elsesser solicited $72,000 from investors for trading in foreign currencies, lied to them about their accounts and took much of their money for his personal use. Elsesser is serving an eight-year federal prison sentence for wire fraud and money laundering in connection with his participation in a a venture capital scam in Charlotte, N.C., before he moved to St. Petersburg.

ATTENDANTS OKAY UNITED DEAL: United Airlines closed in on its goal of cutting labor costs by a third in bankruptcy when flight attendants ratified a contract saving United $1.9-billion over six years. Unions representing mechanics and baggage handlers - the only remaining United groups not to have ratified - voted separately on whether to approve contracts calling for similar concessions. Results weren't expected until early today. Seventy-five percent of eligible flight attendants voted to ratify the contract, the Association of Flight Attendants announced.

Earnings

Walter Industries Inc.

The Tampa company's municipal pipe unit closed a factory in Anniston, Ala., on Tuesday and fired 80 workers there. Walter said the aging factory, which manufactured pipe castings, needed significant renovation and was not worth the expense for Walter or any potential buyer. The company will try to find another use for the land and take a second-quarter loss on its closure.

Walter also reported strong performances by its mortgage financing and aluminum production subsidiaries during the quarter ended March 31, and cited increased sales by its homebuilding subsidiary. Profitability declined at its U.S. Pipe and coal-mining units, however. Walter's earnings of 26 cents per share compared to 30 cents a year earlier, after the year-ago period was adjusted for a change in accounting rules that sliced $2.82 per share off the total.

ATA Holdings Corp.

The parent company of ATA Airlines posted a loss of $11.4-million in the quarter ending March 31 as the war in Iraq reduced travel and contributed to a rise in jet-fuel prices.

SRI/Surgical Express Inc.

The Tampa company, which packages and distributes hospital supplies, said sales fell during the quarter ended March 31 due to previously announced customer losses and price reductions on accounts the company retained.

Maritrans Inc.

The Tampa marine transportation service company said it experienced high utilization in the quarter ended March 31, with customer demand in the Philadelphia refining area being particularly strong. Maritrans also declared a quarterly dividend of 11 cents a share, payable June 4 to shareholders of record on May 21. The company said it purchased 28,742 of its own shares under its share buyback program during the quarter.

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