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Business today

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 21, 2001


NASDAQ SLIDES FOR SECOND DAY: Skittish investors sold off technology stocks Tuesday, pushing the Nasdaq Composite Index down more than 100 points for the second trading session in a row. The Nasdaq fell 107.03 to 2,318.35, led by Nextel Communications, PMC-Sierra and Applied Micro Circuits. All three major U.S. market indicators dropped into negative territory for the year, as the Dow Jones index slipped 68.94 to 10,730.88 and the Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 22.59 to finish at 1,278.94.

TECO SETS STOCK OFFERING: TECO Energy will sell 7.5-million shares of common stock in two weeks in its first offering since 1984. The company also will give underwriters led by Credit Swisse First Boston options to buy nearly 1.3-million additional shares if they oversubscribe the offering. Proceeds from the sale will be used to pay down debt and for general commercial purposes, TECO said. The Tampa utility company bought back 7-million shares in 1999 and 2000 when its stock was priced below $20 a share. Its shares closed at $29.05, down 38 cents.

GOVERNMENT APPLIES PRESSURE TO HCA: HCA-The Healthcare Co. may face more government-backed whistle-blower lawsuits because settlement negotiations over alleged physician kickbacks at its hospitals have stalled, the Justice Department said. The department said it is preparing complaints against the biggest U.S. hospital chain and will decide by March 15 whether to join more suits that claim HCA paid doctors to send patients to its hospitals from 1988 to 1998. Shares of HCA fell 8 cents to $38.55.

ECONOMIC GROUP TO MEET IN FLORIDA: The World Economic Forum will hold its first hemispherewide financial conference for the Americas in Miami this October, Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris said. The three-day meeting of about 400 political, business, academic and civic leaders will be the first in Florida for the organization made up of major global corporations. A major focus will be the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas, a proposal for hemispherewide free trade based on the existing North American Free Trade Agreement, Harris said.

BLUECROSS INTRODUCES NEW PLAN: BlueCross BlueShield of Florida is replacing its health plan for individuals under 65 with a new plan called BlueChoice. The new plan is aimed at people who are not eligible for either employee or Medicare coverage. It offers access to a preferred provider network with a $20 co-pay for family doctor visits, a $150 annual wellness benefit and maximum lifetime coverage of $2-million, up from $1-million under the previous plan. Rates vary based on the individual's age, sex, geographic location and medical history. The Blues cover 2.8-million people in Florida.

TROPICAL INTERESTED IN BUGLE BOY: Tropical Sportswear Int'l Corp. says it may bid to buy Bugle Boy Industries Inc., the casualwear manufacturer that filed for protection from creditors this month. Perry Ellis International Inc. has agreed to buy Bugle Boy's brand and wholesale clothing operations for an undisclosed price. Tropical, the Tampa manufacturer of men's pants and shorts, must beat the bid by at least $1.5-million to win bankruptcy court approval, a Perry Ellis spokeswoman said. Bugle Boy plans to close 215 retail stores, including ones in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Ellenton. Tropical's brands include Farah, Bay to Bay, Savane and Flyers.

TREASURY AUCTION: Interest rates on short-term Treasury bills rose in Tuesday's auction. The Treasury Department auctioned $10-billion in three-month bills at a discount rate of 4.905 percent, up from 4.900 percent last week. Another $10-billion in six-month bills was auctioned at a discount rate of 4.770 percent, up from 4.745 percent. The new discount rates understate the actual return to investors: 5.036 percent for three-month bills and 4.955 percent for a six-month bill. In a separate report, the Federal Reserve said Monday that the average yield for one-year Treasury bills rose to 4.80 percent last week from 4.72 percent the previous week.

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