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Business Today

Boca Raton refines its Scripps bid

By wire services
Published January 14, 2006

Boca Raton refined its bid for Scripps Research Institute's permanent campus, offering to donate land worth as much as $30-million to win the increasingly fractious site competition.

Boca Raton officials will give 30 acres to Scripps and sell 27 city-owned acres at cost, estimated at $5.7-million. The proposal would incorporate 43 acres owned by Florida Atlanta University in Boca Raton. Mayor Steven Abrams pulled together the last-minute bid from south Palm Beach County after alternative sites for Scripps' Florida campus became bogged down in lawsuits and controversy.

NRC finishes its Progress inspection

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission concluded a three-and-a-half-day inspection Friday of Progress Energy's Shearon Harris nuclear power plant near Raleigh, N.C. The NRC was looking into allegations of shoddy security services at the plant by Securitas Security Services USA, the same company responsible for security at Progress' Crystal River nuclear plant. Progress said the inspectors "did not identify any concerns requiring our immediate attention." The inspectors haven't finished an evaluation and will issue a report, NRC spokesman Ken Clark said.

Hurricanes cost HCA $27-million

Despite taking a $27-million hit on its hospitals from hurricanes in the fourth quarter, HCA Inc. said it expects to exceed previous projections for quarterly and year-end earnings. The Nashville hospital chain said it expects to report net income of 72 to 76 cents a share for the quarter ended Dec. 31 and $3.17 to $3.21 for the year. That compares with 2004 earnings of 70 cents for the fourth quarter and $2.58 for the year. HCA said its projected hurricane losses include $7-million for uninsured patient care in its New Orleans hospitals. HCA's revenues are expected to reach $6.2-billion for the fourth quarter and $24.5-billion for the year, compared with $5.9-billion and $23.5-billion for the same periods a year ago.

FPL wants to sell bonds after storms

Florida Power & Light Co. of Juno Beach, the state's largest electric utility, wants to issue bonds to cover more than $1-billion in hurricane costs incurred in 2004 and 2005. In a request filed Friday with state utility regulators, FP&L said the money would replenish its depleted reserve fund, which is used to pay for future storm damage. Under the proposal, FPL customers would pay a slightly smaller surcharge on their monthly bills to cover storm costs. Progress Energy Florida of St. Petersburg is considering a similar idea.

Guidant accepts J&J's new offer

Medical device maker Guidant Corp. on Friday night accepted an increased $24.2-billion buyout offer from Johnson & Johnson, turning aside the latest $24.9-billion offer from Boston Scientific Corp. The announcement of J&J's bid and Guidant's acceptance came about 24 hours after Boston Scientific increased its offer.

It's bonus season, and Manhattanites are spending it

Winter is usually the slow season at Gotham Dream Cars, the time when luxurious Bentleys and 400-horsepower Ferraris sit idle.

But not this year. Rentals of its "ultra-high end" exotic cars are roaring, thanks to mild weather and Wall Street's record-setting 2005 bonuses, said Noah Lehmann-Haupt, president of the Manhattan company.

Those bonuses are expected to fill the pockets of financial workers with $21.5-billion and set off a wave of spending on everything from real estate to jewelry.

The most popular Gotham car rental is the $195,000 Lamborghini Gallardo at a discounted winter rate of $1,350 for a day or $4,450 for week.

"It's the perfect way for people to celebrate without going overboard," Lehmann-Haupt said, noting that not everyone gets a $20-million bonus and is in the market to buy.

The average 2005 bonus is expected to be a record $125,500, according to Alan Hevesi, the state comptroller of New York. That is $25,000 more than in 2000 at the peak of the last bull market. That year also set the previous record for total bonuses: $19.5-billion.

You have to ask for tomatoes at Wendy's

Tomatoes are available by request only at Wendy's restaurants, a short-term policy that began in late December because of crop damage from hurricanes in Florida.

"We use larger size tomatoes in sandwiches and haven't been able to secure them with the quality and quantity that we would like," said Bob Bertini of Wendy's International Inc. Bertini said the shortage could end in a few weeks when new crops become available.

McDonald's Corp., the No. 1 chain, said it is not facing a similar shortage and Burger King Corp., the second-largest chain, did not immediately return messages.

Other chatter

HOMES GET BIGGER: Just like burgers and big-screen TVs, Americans are supersizing their homes. The average house built in the United States last year was a record 2,412 square feet. That's up 63 square feet from 2004 - about the size of a walk-in closet - says the National Association of Home Builders.

ANOTHER JAPANESE STOCK BLUNDER: Japanese brokerage Daiwa Securities SMBC lost almost 500-million yen, or $4.4-million, after placing an erroneous sell order on the Tokyo Stock Exchange early Friday, officials said. The blunder is the latest in a series of botched trades on Asia's biggest bourse. The brokerage rebought all 13,000 of the mistaken shares by the end of Friday's session.

Information from Cox News Service and the Associated Press was used in this report.

[Last modified January 14, 2006, 01:38:14]

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