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Business Today

British airline to fly into St. Petersburg

By wire services
Published February 17, 2006

A British startup airline will begin flights between Great Britain and St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport in July.

But don't try to book a flight. Regulations ban Flywho from selling tickets to Birmingham for trips that originate in the United States, according to airport director Noah Lagos. Still, he said, Flywho's service is a landmark, bringing the airport's first long-haul international flights. The service justifies its controversial decision to pursue a $17-million extension of the main runway to handle trans-Atlantic carriers, Lagos said.

Tampa hotelier buys Holiday Inn Express

Tampa hotelier Pat Moran has acquired the 76-room Holiday Inn Express on U.S. 301 near the Florida State Fairgrounds for $7.7-million, according to Greene, Canfield, DeGeorge Ltd., a Clearwater hotel broker. The seller was Jay Patel, a Tampa hotel operator who owns several properties and is building a 76-room Holiday Inn Express near Interstate 275 and 54th Avenue N in St. Petersburg. The east Hillsborough hotel is the third one Moran owns and the fourth one he manages.

First Advantage buys screening company

St. Petersburg's First Advantage Corp. has agreed to buy Accufacts Pre-Employment Screening Inc. of Longwood. Terms call for First Advantage to pay about $5-million or 75 cents a share for Accufacts' stock. Closing is subject to shareholders' approval. Accufacts, which will remain in Longwood after the deal, provides background checks and drug testing of employee candidates.

Burger King hopes to get $400M from IPO

Burger King's parent company expects to raise up to $400-million in an initial public offering and said it will use the proceeds to pay down debt, according to regulatory documents filed Thursday. Burger King Holdings Inc. didn't specify a per share price, what percent of the company's shares would be offered or set a date for the IPO, according to a copy of the registration statement to the Securities and Exchange Commission. An unspecified part of the proceeds would be used to repay debt, including loans taken out to pay the chain's owners a $367-million dividend.

Report: Amazon plans rival to iPod is preparing to take on Apple Computer in digital music by introducing a portable music player that would be linked to an online music service, the New York Times reported, citing music industry executives involved with negotiations with Amazon.

Unlike Apple, which sells songs for 99 cents each, Amazon will offer a service that charges a monthly or annual fee to customers, who will have the right to fill up their music players with as many songs as they like, the executives said. When they stop paying the fee, the music on the player will be disabled.

MasterCard stalls IPO over CEO's health

NEW YORK - MasterCard Inc., the nation's second-largest credit card brand, on Thursday said it will postpone its initial public offering until the second quarter as its chief executive recovers from prostate cancer surgery.

The company had been expected to list on the New York Stock Exchange during the first quarter. However, MasterCard said president and CEO Bob Selander was recently diagnosed with the cancer, which would have made touting the IPO in an investor road show more difficult.

Icahn scales back Time Warner plans

NEW YORK - Financier Carl Icahn is scaling back his drive to shake up Time Warner Inc., abandoning efforts to seek control of the giant media company by nominating only a partial slate of directors, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The newspaper, citing unidentified people familiar with Icahn's plans, said Icahn would nominate only five directors at Time Warner's next annual meeting, not enough to ensure control, amid signs that the dissident investor could be near some kind of an agreement with the company.

Time Warner declined to comment, and Icahn did not return a phone call seeking comment.

General Re, AIG execs plead not guilty

ALEXANDRIA, Va. - Four former top executives of insurance giants General Re and American International Group pleaded not guilty to federal fraud and conspiracy charges Thursday and pledged $1-million in bond. Their trial was set for May.

Bored by the Enron trial? How about the musical?

Theatergoers in Houston, the home of Enron Corp., may soon learn whether off-balance-sheet accounting can be entertaining.

Enron: the Musical, a two-act parody, is under development at the Stages Repertory Theatre as Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling, who headed the energy trader, stand trial on federal fraud charges. The theater is 3 miles west of the former headquarters of what was once the seventh-largest U.S. company.

"It seemed appropriate," said author Mark Fraser, 49, a first-time playwright who sells cleaning supplies by day. His songs cover topics such as Enron's falsified sale of Nigerian power barges to increase earnings: "There's no business like barge business, we bought although 'twas a sham."

Stages has held three open rehearsals, known as readings, of the musical in front of audiences of about 60 people to gauge their reaction. Rob Bundy, the theater's artistic director, said that only one or two scripts among the 200 new plays he reads each year get as far as a reading.

"It's a lot of fun," Bundy said of Fraser's work. "We had a number of Enron employees coming in. There was an element of anger, but it was balanced by the memory of when Enron was working, it was a wonderful place to be."

Other chatter

WAL-MART BEGINS NEW AD CAMPAIGN: Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has debuted a multimedia advertising campaign focused on surprising shoppers with the range and quality of Wal-Mart's merchandise. The campaign aims to make customers discover Wal-Mart as a shopping destination that offers possibilities beyond basic necessities, Wal-Mart said.

VERISIGN TO WORK WITH EBAY, YAHOO: VeriSign Inc., whose software prevents identity-theft on the Internet, will work with EBay Inc. and Yahoo Inc. to create a network that makes online shopping more secure. VeriSign will provide network participants with electronic devices that confirm shoppers' identities and give them access to the network. The devices will initially be distributed to consumers by EBay's PayPal unit, VeriSign said.


J.C. Penney Co. Inc.: The shopping mall stalwart said profit jumped 65 percent helped by strong sales in stores and online. The department store retailer offered a bullish outlook for 2006.

Dell Inc.: The world's largest personal computer maker said profit rose 52 percent as it was helped by an extra week in its quarter and by strong sales to businesses and international customers.

Target Corp.: The discount retailer, helped by store expansion and improved sales at existing locations, reported a 14 percent rise in profits.

Information from Bloomberg News was used in this report.

[Last modified February 17, 2006, 02:15:35]

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