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Business Today

By wire services
Published January 13, 2004

DELTA OFFERS 1-FOR-2: Delta Air Lines will award a free ticket anywhere it flies to customers who make two paid round trips between major Florida cities, including Tampa, and either Boston or New York by April 15, the airline said Monday. Travelers can qualify with tickets purchased on most coach fares between Tampa International Airport and Boston's Logan International or New York's LaGuardia and JFK International airports. The offer matches a deal announced last week by American Airlines on routes where it competes with JetBlue Airways.

OUTBACK PROMOTES EXECS: Outback Steakhouse promoted several senior executives Monday. Paul Avery was named president of the Tampa company, responsible for the flagship steakhouse, Carrabba's Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill and Cheeseburger in Paradise chains. He succeeds co-founder and former president Robert Basham, who will report to Avery and stay on as chief operating officer. Also rising are Bill Allen, who in addition to managing the Roy's and Fleming's Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar chains will take on the forthcoming Paul Lee's Chinese Kitchen concept, and Ben Novello, who will take over Avery's former post as president of the steakhouse chain.

TECO DEBT UNDER REVIEW: Moody's Investors Service said Monday it placed the debt ratings of TECO Energy Inc. and its Tampa Electric unit under review for possible downgrade, citing concerns about TECO's debt-ridden wholesale power business. Moody's said it believes TECO will write off its investments in its large Union and Gila River power stations, as the utility has hinted. Other writedowns are also possible, which could trigger a loan default at TECO, Moody's said. Moody's will focus on TECO's ability to withstand the writedowns, as well as Tampa Electric's financial health and the degree to which it might have to support TECO financially.

BAYER REPORTS BAYCOL SETTLEMENTS: Drugmaker Bayer AG said Monday it has reached more than 2,000 settlements related to the 2001 withdrawal of Baycol, a cholesterol-lowering drug, paying out $782-million without admitting liability. The company said in a regular update that it has settled 2,059 cases - up from 1,959 a month ago - while 10,494 are pending. Bayer pulled Baycol in August 2001 after it was linked to a rare muscle-wasting syndrome and about 100 deaths.

KERKORIAN SUIT RESUMES: DaimlerChrysler AG did not intentionally withhold nearly 70 pages of notes and other documents from investor Kirk Kerkorian in his lawsuit against the automaker, a special master ruled Monday. U.S. District Judge Joseph Farnan Jr. halted Kerkorian's trial Dec. 16 after DaimlerChrysler suddenly gave Kerkorian's attorneys 61 pages of handwritten notes and other documents from former Chrysler chief financial officer Gary Valade. DaimlerChrysler later submitted six more pages of documents from Valade's files. Kerkorian is suing the automaker for more than $1-billion, saying Daimler-Benz falsely characterized a 1998 takeover of Chrysler as a merger.

SEC WARNS COMPUTER ASSOCIATES: Computer Associates International Inc. said Monday that Securities and Exchange Commission may file civil charges against the software concern over its premature recognition of revenue from software licensing contracts. The company is facing a joint investigation of its accounting practices by the Department of Justice and the SEC. In October, Computer Associates said its own investigation found that sales contracts in fiscal 2000 had been booked as revenue before being signed.

ORACLE SPLITS CHAIRMAN, CEO: Business software maker Oracle Corp. named its longtime chief financial officer Jeff Henley as chairman, replacing its colorful co-founder Larry Ellison, who will remain as the company's chief executive. Ellison also promoted two of his closest advisers, Safra Catz and Charles Phillips, to co-presidents of the company. Meanwhile, European Commission antitrust regulators suspended their review of Oracle Corp.'s hostile $7-billion offer to buy PeopleSoft Inc. after asking Oracle for more information, according to the commission's calendar. The regulatory authority, which had been set to decide the case by March 30, didn't say what information was missing.

PEOPLESOFT TRIES SECOND BUYBACK: PeopleSoft Inc., which is fighting Oracle Corp.'s hostile takeover bid, plans to repurchase as much as $200-million of its common stock a month after saying it had finished a $350-million repurchase program. "We think this is a good use of some of the more than $1-billion in cash we have on our balance sheet," company spokesman Steve Swasey said. "We feel it's a way to use our cash on hand to enhance shareholder value." PeopleSoft, which makes software that manages accounting, inventory and payroll, has about 374.9-million shares outstanding valued at about $8.62-billion. The company gave no other details about the buyback program.

BofA SCHEDULES VOTE ON FLEET: Bank of America Corp. said Monday it will have a special shareholders meeting March 17 to vote on its proposed merger with FleetBoston Financial Corp. Shareholders of record on Jan. 26 will be entitled to vote at the meeting, which will be held in Charlotte, N.C., where Bank of America is based. The merger also must be approved by the Federal Reserve Board, which will have public hearings on the issue this week in Boston and San Francisco. The Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department have already given their blessings to the planned deal, which was initially valued at $47-billion and would create a banking company with $930-billion in assets - second only to Citigroup Inc.

MORGAN ORDERED TO PAY LVMH: Morgan Stanley gave investors biased advice and must pay at least 30-million euros ($38.45-million) in damages to LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA, a Paris court ruled. LVMH, the world's largest luxury-goods maker, sought 100-million euros from Morgan Stanley, alleging that its research on the company was tainted by the firm's banking relationship with rival Gucci Group NV. The court appointed an expert to determine what additional damages should be paid. "The facts constitute a serious fault on the side of Morgan Stanley, to the detriment of LVMH," said commercial court judge Gilbert Costes. Morgan Stanley "caused a moral and material prejudice to LVMH's image, which justifies reparations."

SHORT-TERM T-BILL RATES FALL: The Treasury Department sold $17-billion in three-month securities at a discount rate of 0.870 percent, down from 0.920 percent last week. An additional $16-billion was sold in six-month bills at a rate of 0.950 percent, down from 1.020 percent. In a separate report, the Federal Reserve said Monday that the average yield for one-year constant maturity Treasury bills was 1.29 percent last week, unchanged from the previous week.

EUROPE MAY CHARGE TOP U.S. STUDIOS: Viacom Inc.'s Paramount Pictures, Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros., Sony Corp.'s Columbia Tristar Motion Pictures, Walt Disney Co., Tracinda Corp.'s Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., News Corp.'s Fox Entertainment Group and Vivendi Universal SA will be charged with breaching European Union antitrust rules, Bloomberg News reported Monday, citing sources familiar with the situation. European Competition Commissioner Mario Monti plans to charge Hollywood's largest studios with illegally limiting competition through contracts that commit television broadcasters to offer the same terms to multiple film suppliers, the people said. The commission aims to boost competition in the $49.5-billion European pay-TV market by easing access to content, including films such as Die Another Day and professional sports.

QUATTRONE RETRIAL STAYS PUT: Former Credit Suisse First Boston banker Frank Quattrone, who faces a second trial in March for obstructing justice, lost his bid Monday to move the proceeding to northern California. U.S. District Judge Richard Owen denied the motion to move the trial from New York, rejecting what he called a "sad and tragic" Quattrone family situation. Quattrone's reasons for wanting to move the trial were under court seal. They involve a difficulty he would have in caring for his daughter while his wife is ill, Quattrone's lawyer John Keker said. Owen said it was unrealistic to expect that Quattrone would be able to care for his daughter during a criminal trial regardless of its location. He denied a similar motion before Quattrone's first trial, which ended in a hung jury last year.


SunTrust Banks Inc.: The Atlanta bank posted a larger profit than expected for its fourth quarter, as revenue climbed 7.1 percent. Analysts had on average expected earnings of about $1.19 a share for the latest quarter, according to Thomson First Call. In a conference call, SunTrust executives said they feel more upbeat about the business outlook than they did last year.

Kensington Bankshares: The Tampa holding company said its First Kensington Bank had a 331 percent increase in net income for the fourth quarter ending Dec. 31.

[Last modified January 13, 2004, 01:33:02]

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