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Business Today

By wire services
Published October 22, 2004

BLACKSTONE AFFILIATE TO BUY BOCA RESORTS: An affiliate of New York investment firm the Blackstone Group has agreed to buy the luxury resort company Boca Resorts in a stock deal worth nearly $1-billion, officials said Wednesday. Boca Resorts said it signed a definitive merger agreement to be acquired by an affiliate of the Blackstone Group for $24 per share, valuing the Boca Raton company at about $966-million. The price is 28 percent higher than Tuesday's closing price of $18.76. The Blackstone Group also agreed to assume company debt. Chairman and CEO H. Wayne Huizenga holds about 98 percent of the company's vote and has agreed to vote his shares for the deal. The transaction is expected to be completed by early 2005.

ALLSTATE LIKELY TO RAISE RATES: Allstate Corp. Chief Executive Officer Edward Liddy said the second-largest U.S. home and auto insurer will "probably" raise rates in Florida. Allstate on Wednesday said Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne cost it $1.06-billion. While Allstate has restricted sales in Florida, the company wants to continue to do business in the state, Liddy said. Raising rates in Florida "is really only one part of an overall solution," Liddy said.

GRAND JURY INVESTIGATING INSURER: One of the nation's largest insurance companies, American International Group Inc., said Thursday it has been notified by the federal prosecutor in Indiana that it is a target of a federal grand jury investigation into "nontraditional" insurance products. The Indiana probe concerns "nontraditional insurance" or "income smoothing" products marketed by the New York company. They apparently involved agreements with businesses that would appear to be insurance and would be accounted for as insurance, but did not involve risk transfer, AIG said.

VIACOM, DISNEY TO PAY FINES: Viacom Inc. will pay $1-million and the Walt Disney Co. $500,000 to settle charges they violated rules for airing commercials during children's programs, federal regulators said Thursday. The combined penalty is the largest imposed by the Federal Communications Commission for such violations.

EARNINGS

Amazon.com: Amazon.com on Thursday reported it had more than tripled its third-quarter net earnings, thanks to stronger sales in North America and internationally.

AT&T Corp.: The nation's largest long-distance company posted a large third-quarter loss after recording huge charges related to the company's retreat from traditional telephone services, which has included at least 7,500 more job cuts and a writedown in the value of the company's long-distance network.

Coca-Cola Co.: The beverage giant reported a 24 percent drop in third-quarter profit on flat revenue, but beat analysts reduced expectations that were tempered after the company's warnings.

Paradyne Networks Inc.: The Largo maker of high-speed Internet access equipment said its net loss in the quarter ended Sept. 30 widened slightly from a year earlier because of a write-off of purchased research and development related to its August acquisition of the assets of Net To Net TechnologiesInc., business restructuring charges and amortization of deferred stock compensation and intangible assets. Paradyne's net loss remained flat on a per-share basis because of a minor increase in common shares outstanding.

Google Inc.: Google Inc. exceeded analyst expectations in its first quarterly earnings report as a public company, propelled by a continued surge in online advertising distributed by its Internet-leading search engine.

Hershey Foods Corp.: The nation's largest candymaker reported an almost 16 percent jump in third-quarter earnings on Thursday, citing strong sales of new products and higher prices.

Maytag Corp.: The household appliance maker reported Thursday its third-quarter earnings fell almost 80 percent from a year earlier as restructuring costs, higher steel prices and lower sales of Hoover floor care products took a toll.

Microsoft Corp.: The software company said its fiscal first-quarter earnings rose 11 percent, beating analysts' expectations, as it benefited from stronger-than-expected computer and server shipments.

Nicholas Financial Inc.: The Clearwater car finance company reported record results for the second fiscal quarter, with earnings up 49 percent and revenue up 27 percent. Nicholas has 34 branch offices in the Southeast and Midwest.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.: Higher ticket prices and onboard revenues coupled with increased capacity to help boost third-quarter results nearly 50 percent at the world's second-largest cruise company despite the effects of four hurricanes.

Sears, Roebuck and Co.: Mired in a deepening retail slump, the country's third-biggest department store chain reported a third-quarter loss Thursday and warned that 2004 earnings will be lower than expected after back-to-school and fall sales were weaker than usual.

UPS Inc.: The world's largest shipping carrier reported a 20 percent jump in third-quarter profit on solid increases in revenue and package volume.

Wendy's International Inc.: The restaurant company on Thursday said earnings for the third quarter were up more than 4 percent, partly because of increased sales at its Wendy's and Tim Hortons restaurants. The company also lowered its 2004 earnings expectation again, this time from $2.32 to $2.37 per share to $2.25 to $2.30.

Xerox Corp.: The maker of copiers and printers reported Thursday that third-quarter profits increased 39 percent, citing strong sales of new products and demand for document services. The results beat the consensus estimate of 14 cents per share of analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call.

[Last modified October 22, 2004, 01:34:51]

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