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Business today

By Wire services
Published May 7, 2004

AUTO SALES INCENTIVES CONTINUE: General Motors Corp., DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler unit and Ford Motor Co. are maintaining the drumbeat of incentives to try to boost sales of all vehicles. Ford began a program this week that gives buyers $1,000 or more plus no-interest financing on sport utility vehicles and minivans. GM's promotion offers a similar deal on 2004 GM trucks. Chrysler offers a $1,000 bonus to returning customers who buy 2005 Chrysler 300 Series sedans. It also offers a $1,000 rebate to 2005 minivan buyers, plus $1,000 to those buying any 2005 Chrysler or Dodge model who finance through Chrysler.

ORLANDO PARKS ARE HIRING: Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando announced Thursday they each plan to hire 2,000 workers for summer jobs. Disney brought in a similar number of employees last summer, but then reduced the hours for its maintenance staff. But no cutbacks are planned this year, Disney spokeswoman Rena Langley said. Also, Sea World said it will be hiring to fill 900 part-time and seasonal positions for summer.

PROGRESS GETS REEDY CREEK DEAL: Progress Energy Florida Inc. said Thursday it has signed a five-year wholesale power agreement to provide the Reedy Creek Improvement District of Lake Buena Vista with up to 119 megawatts of electricity starting in January 2006. Progress, of St. Petersburg, will replace the Orlando Utilities Commission as Reedy Creek's primary power supplier. Reedy Creek is the state-owned provider of utility services to the Walt Disney World Resort complex.

WALTERS SELLS METAL FABRICATOR: A group of managers and outside investors are buying a small Walter Industries unit in Sweetwater, Tenn., that makes cast iron and fabricated steel products for use in building single-family homes. The Tampa conglomerate said Thursday the management group is paying about $6-million for the assets of Vestal Manufacturing. The unit has about $20-million in annual revenues, Walter spokesman John McNeilly said. The sale is part of Walter's strategy to focus on its core businesses.

TENET MOVES TO DALLAS: Tenet Healthcare Corp., the nation's second-largest for-profit hospital chain, said Thursday it will move its headquarters to Dallas from Santa Barbara, Calif. The governor of Texas and the mayor of Dallas heralded the move, but it won't bring many jobs; the company said 115 will shift to Dallas. That is far fewer than the 700 corporate employees Tenet already has in the city. CEO Trevor Fetter said the move would improve efficiency by consolidating corporate staff in one place.

RAYTHEON NEEDS ENGINEERS: Raytheon Co., the world's largest missilemaker, plans to add about 1,500 workers this year, a 1.9 percent increase, to provide engineers for U.S. missile-defense and classified-intelligence programs for which it recently received contracts. The company will have 79,500 workers by the end of this year, up from 78,000 last year, Raytheon spokesman James Fetig said. About 200 of the new jobs will be in Massachusetts and the rest across the country, he said. About 80 percent of the workers hired will be engineers.

MITSUBISHI EX-EXECS ARRESTED: Mitsubishi Motors Corp. suffered another blow Thursday when police arrested seven former executives suspected of falsifying reports about a truck defect linked to a fatal accident two years ago in Japan. Those arrested included Takashi Usami, the former chairman of Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus and a former vice president of Mitsubishi Motors. All seven were executives of Mitsubishi Motors when the accident occurred in January 2002. Also Thursday, Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport filed a criminal complaint against Mitsubishi Motors over the reports in question. The arrests and investigation added to the list of setbacks in Japan for DaimlerChrysler, which invested in Mitsubishi Motors in 1999 to build its Asian business.

HOME DEPOT BUYS SUPPLIER: The Home Depot Inc. is buying White Cap Construction Supply Inc. to expand its business among professional customers. Terms were not disclosed. White Cap, of Costa Mesa, Calif., has 70 branches and 1,720 employees and specializes in selling construction materials, tools, safety equipment and lighting to professional contractors. The agreement is expected to close within a month, the companies said.

SEC SUES PIMCO UNITS, EXECS: The Securities and Exchange Commission accused Pimco Advisors Fund Management, its CEO and the former head of another company of civil fraud Thursday for allegedly giving a hedge fund secret privileges to use "market timing" in stock mutual funds involving more than $4-billion. In the lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court in Manhattan, the SEC is seeking unspecified civil fines and restitution from Pimco Advisors Fund Management; PEA Capital; Pimco Advisors Distributors; Stephen Treadway, CEO of Pimco Advisors Fund Management and Pimco Advisors Distributors; and Kenneth Corba, former CEO of PEA Capital.

COMPUTER ASSOCIATES PLANS RESTATEMENTS: Computer Associates International Inc., the Long Island software company under investigation for its accounting, said Thursday it will revise reports for the second half of 2003 to defer recognition of about $9-million in revenue because of an adjustment in the way the company calculates subscription revenue. The software company also said it will report results for the fiscal fourth quarter ended March31 as much as two weeks later than planned because of the work involved in the restatement.

ITALY PLANS ALITALIA RESCUE: The Italian government and labor unions agreed Thursday on a preliminary plan to rescue the struggling airline Alitalia - a set of measures that includes a management shake-up and calls for fresh funding but makes no reference to job cuts. The agreement came at the end of four days of negotiations between the government, which owns 62 percent of the company, and management and labor representatives. Details of the plan remained sketchy. But the shakeup began as Alitalia CEO Marco Zanichelli and chairman Giuseppe Bonomi resigned and the chief of the state railroad, Giancarlo Cimoli, was named CEO.

EARNINGS

Nicholas Financial Inc.: The Clearwater car finance company reported another record quarter, with net income up 24 percent on a 14 percent increase in revenue for the fiscal fourth quarter ended March 31. Net finance receivables increased from $86.2-million to $97.2-million.

Pixar Animation Studios: Profits at Pixar more than tripled in the first quarter, boosted by strong home video sales of its last animated feature, Finding Nemo. The results easily beat the estimate of analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call, who had expected earnings of 39 cents per share.

Conseco Inc.: The insurer reported a nearly $50-million profit for the first quarter, a gain that was at the top end of a forecast the insurer made last week. Conseco emerged in September from the third-largest bankruptcy in U.S. history.

[Last modified May 7, 2004, 01:07:29]

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