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Business today

By Wire services
Published March 9, 2004

BB&T BUYS INSURANCE AGENCY: BB&T Corp. is buying an insurance agency in St. Petersburg just three months after agreeing to buy Republic Bancshares Inc. of St. Petersburg for $436-million. BB&T Insurance Services, the insurance arm of the financial company based in Raleigh, N.C., said Monday it is buying Iler Wall & Shonter Insurance Inc., a St. Petersburg firm with 73 employees and $75-million in premiums last year. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The agency's principal owners, Rick Iler, Kipp Wall, Rick Shonter and Claire Shonter, will remain with the combined company in management roles, BB&T said. BB&T, which made 10 acquisitions last year, also said it plans to cut as many as 1,000 jobs in 2004, about 4 percent of its workforce, related to its recent transactions.

FIRST ADVANTAGE BUYS CANADIAN: First Advantage Corp. of St. Petersburg has acquired Toronto-based Infocheck Ltd. for an undisclosed amount. Infocheck is the largest Canadian company specializing in employment background checks and exit interviews. It is the first foreign acquisition for First Advantage, which has been rapidly expanding its array of screening services through acquisitions. First Advantage, which will retain Infocheck's Canadian office, now has more than 1,400 employees in the United States and Bangalore, India.

TECH DATA NAMES AMERICAS CHIEF: Tech Data Corp. has named Ken Lamneck as its new president of the Americas region, in charge of the Clearwater computer distributor's operations in the United States, Canada and Latin America. Lamneck, 49, was most recently president of Arrow/Richey Electronics, a division of Arrow Electronics, a large electronics distributor and major competitor of Tech Data. Lamneck will report directly to Nestor Cano, president of worldwide operations.

TROPICAL WAREHOUSE DESTROYED: Tropical Sportswear International Corp. said Monday that $1.4-million worth of its clothing was destroyed in a warehouse fire in Mexico City over the weekend. The Tampa company said it believes the loss will be covered by its insurance. The distribution warehouse was owned by a contractor, and the clothing had been manufactured for Mexican consumers.

KMART HIRES HSN MARKETER: Paul Guyardo, executive vice president of TV marketing at Home Shopping Network in St. Petersburg for eight years, was named chief marketing officer Monday for Kmart Corp. The selection came three days after the name behind the discount chain's biggest vendor, Martha Stewart, was convicted of obstruction of justice and lying about a stock transaction. HSN said Guyardo would be missed and launched a search for a replacement.

WELLCARE BUYS MIDWESTERN HMO: WellCare Health Plans of Tampa has agreed to acquire a Medicaid HMO in Illinois and Indiana for an undisclosed price. Harmony Health Systems has about 85,000 members and is the largest Medicaid managed care company in Illinois. It also participates in the Hoosier Healthwise program in Indiana. WellCare, which has revenues of more than $1-billion, operates both Medicare and Medicaid managed care plans in Connecticut, New York and Florida.

BERKSHIRE'S CASH GROWS: Warren Buffett, with cash piling up at Berkshire Hathaway Inc., said he invested $12-billion in currencies and held onto most of his high-yield, high-risk bonds. Berkshire's chairman and the world's second-richest man told shareholders in his annual letter that he saw few bargains in stocks and bonds. Cash at the Omaha, Neb., company jumped to $36-billion from $31-billion in September, and was earning "pathetically low interest." "It's a painful condition to be in - but not as painful as doing something stupid," said Buffett. The company reported Saturday that fourth-quarter net income doubled to $2.39-billion, or $1,553 per Class A share, on a rebound in insurance units.

MOFFITT QUANTIFIES AREA IMPACT: Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa said the economic impact of its research operations on the Tampa Bay area has increased 88 percent in the past five years. Moffitt estimates it spent $51-million in west central Florida last year, compared to $27-million in 1998. The research institute said its direct and indirect impact on area employment has increased to 4,165 jobs last year compared to 3,291 in 1998.

WINN-DIXIE HIRES CFO: Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. said Monday it has named Bennett L. Nussbaum chief financial officer to replace Richard P. McCook, who resigned after 20 years at the post. Nussbaum, 56, most recently was Burger King Corp.'s chief financial officer, a post he left last year. He has held the same position at Kinko's Inc. and PepsiCo Inc.'s international division, Winn-Dixie said. McCook was Winn-Dixie's financial chief since 1984, the year he joined the company.

BofA, FLEETBOSTON DEAL OKAYED: Bank of America and FleetBoston Financial Corp. won approval from the Federal Reserve on Monday for the merger creating the third-largest U.S. bank, a behemoth holding nearly $1-trillion in assets and stretching from California to New England. The Fed's board of governors voted unanimously to clear the merger, determining that Bank of America's acquisition of FleetBoston would not threaten competition.

SMUCKER GETS PILLSBURY IN DEAL: The J.M. Smucker Co. said Monday it is acquiring Minneapolis-based International Multifoods Corp., the maker of Pillsbury, Hungry Jack and other food brands, in a $500-million cash and stock deal. The agreement calls for Multifoods shareholders to get $25 per share in a combination of 80 percent Smucker stock and 20 percent cash. The maker of Smucker's jams and Jif peanut butter also would assume about $340-million of Multifoods' debt.

BELLSOUTH SELLS TO TELEFONICA: BellSouth Corp. agreed to sell its stake in 10 Latin American operations to a wireless unit of Spanish telecommunications giant Telefonica SA for about $4.2-billion in cash and $1.5-billion in debt. The sale will help fund BellSouth's $16-billion share of last month's deal to acquire AT&T Wireless. BellSouth owns 40 percent of Cingular, with SBC Communications of San Antonio owning the other 60 percent.

KODAK BUYS DIGITAL LINES: Accelerating its push into digital commercial printing, Eastman Kodak Co. is buying two business lines from German manufacturer Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG in a deal worth up to $150-million. The world's biggest film photography company said it will acquire Heidelberg's 50 percent stake in NexPress Solutions LLC, a six-year joint venture that makes digital color printing systems. It will also buy Heidelberg Digital, which makes printing systems.

T-BILLS MOSTLY LOWER: The Treasury Department sold $19-billion in three-month securities Monday at a discount rate of 0.930 percent, down from 0.940 percent last week. An additional $17-billion was sold in six-month bills at a rate of 0.975 percent, down from 0.990 percent. The Federal Reserve said the average yield for one-year constant maturity Treasury bills edged up to 1.23 percent last week from 1.22 percent.

[Last modified March 9, 2004, 01:35:32]

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