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Published February 14, 2004

CINGULAR UPS BID FOR AT&T WIRELESS: Cingular Wireless was planning to submit a new bid Friday to buy AT&T Wireless for at least $31.9-billion, the Associated Press reports, citing an unnamed source. The Cingular bid was expected to be more than AT&T Wireless' closing share price of $11.82 on the New York Stock Exchange, according to the Associated Press. The board of Redmond, Wash., AT&T Wireless was expected to meet today to discuss bids for the company, which had set a 5 p.m. Friday deadline for the bids to be submitted.

CONSUMER ATTITUDES COLDER THAN EXPECTED: Consumer attitudes about the economy turned sour in the first half of February, reversing a trend toward greater optimism after the U.S. economy posted stellar growth in 2003. The University of Michigan's mid-month report on consumer sentiment for February dropped to 93.1 from 103.8 in January, the Associated Press reported. Economists had expected the mid-February sentiment index to inch slightly higher from its reading at the end of January.

GOVERNOR TO VISIT CENTRAL AMERICA: Gov. Jeb Bush and a delegation of Florida business leaders will meet with the presidents of Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras during on a weeklong trip to Central America next week. During the trip, Bush will continue his campaign to make Miami the Permanent FTAA Secretariat. The trip is a joint effort of Enterprise Florida and the Florida Free Trade Area of the Americas.

LIBERTY MUTUAL TO OPEN NEW CALL CENTER: Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. will open a new Hillsborough County call center in June and plans to hire 200 employees by the end of next year. Most of the openings are for customer service representatives with starting salaries between $26,600 and $29,500 a year. The company will hold an open house for prospective employees from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Feb 23 at the new office at 13101 Telecom Drive in Temple Terrace.

FRANKLIN MINT CLOSES STORES: After laying off 200 workers last year, the Franklin Mint has closed its 30 retail stores and its "museum" near its headquarters in Pennsylvania. The Franklin Mint Galleries at International Plaza in Tampa and at Tyrone Square Mall in St. Petersburg closed at the end of January. The company will continue to sell its collectibles, which range from Scarlett O'Hara and Princess Diana dolls to miniature John Deere tractors, through its Web site and catalog.

TAMPA COMPANY TO BUILD GYPSUM PLANT: BPB America Inc. of Tampa said Friday it plans to build a $100-million gypsum wallboard plant in Roxboro, N.C., that will use synthetic gypsum produced as a byproduct at an adjacent coal-fired power plant operated by Progress Energy Inc., the parent of Progress Energy Florida Inc. BPB and Progress also said they signed an agreement under which BPB will buy gypsum from Progress' coal plants.

VERIZON, NEXTEL DROP SUITS: Verizon Wireless Inc. and Nextel Communications Inc. said they agreed to end two lawsuits over walkie-talkie telephones and advertising. Verizon Wireless agreed to drop allegations accusing Nextel of stealing prototypes of its new telephones and Nextel agreed to drop a suit that said Verizon Wireless advertising was misleading. Still pending is Verizon Wireless's lawsuit challenging Nextel's right to trademark the phrase "Push to Talk," said Nextel spokeswoman Audrey Schaefer.

SCHICK PARENT SUES GILLETTE: The corporate parent of Schick-Wilkinson Sword sued rival Gillette Co. for patent infringement on Friday, ratcheting up the feud between the world's two largest makers of wet shave products. Energizer Holdings Inc. of St. Louis said the lawsuit filed in federal court in Connecticut alleges that Gillette's flagship products sold under the Mach3, Mach3Turbo and Venus brands infringe three Schick patents.

PASCO BEVERAGE CUTS DEBT PAYMENTS: Pasco Beverage Group said Friday that it is cutting its debt payments this year by more than $29-million through an an amended credit agreement with its lender, Rabobank Nederland of New York. The Dade City juice supplier did not disclose terms of the restructuring, except to indicate its new revolving loan is for three years and long term debt is for seven years. Pasco Beverage also said it closed Jan.31 on the previously announced sale of its chilled juice business to Johanna Foods of Flemington, N.J.

BLACK FILES DEFAMATION SUIT: Embattled newspaper baron Conrad Black fired back at several critics at Hollinger International Inc. on Friday, filing a lawsuit in Toronto claiming $850-million Canadian ($650-million U.S.) in damages for defamation, conspiracy to injure, interference with economic relations and intimidation, intentional misrepresentation, plus punitive damages.

ANCHOR GLASS REPORTS FOURTH QUARTER LOSS: Anchor Glass Container Corp. blamed an $11.3-million fourth quarter loss on higher interest expenses, machine down time and an increase in the cost of natural gas. The Tampa manufacturer had a loss of $634,000 for the same period a year ago. Sales rose from $156.9-million to $167.2-million, driven largely by an increase in beer bottle production. For the full year, Anchor Glass lost $26.2-million on sales of $709.9-million, compared to net income of $63.2-million on sales of $715.6-million in 2002. The company did not release per-share data.


Ablest Inc.: The Clearwater staffing company said record revenues were achieved in the quarter ended Dec.31 due to increased demand for light industrial and clerical workers.

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