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Business today

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 14, 2001

RETAIL SALES SLIDE IN FEBRUARY: Retail sales in February fell 0.2 percent to $274.5-billion, the Commerce Department said. February's decline was the first in three months, but sales were higher than analysts had expected. Sales at department stores and other general merchandise stores rose 0.3 percent, with a 0.2 percent increase at auto dealers.

SEMINOLE WOMAN JOINS METLIFE BIAS SUIT: A Seminole woman who has worked for Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. for more than 30 years is one of five plaintiffs in a discrimination lawsuit filed against the nation's largest life insurance company. Barbara LaChance is a senior compensation associate in MetLife's office in Tampa. She and four other employees accuse the company of hiring fewer women and denying women promotions and adequate compensation. According to the lawsuit, filed in federal court in New York, only 7 percent of MetLife's managing directors are women. LaChance claims she was steered into lower-paying administrative positions.

TARGET DATE SET FOR INTERMEDIA DEAL: WorldCom's purchase of Tampa-based Intermedia Communications could close as soon as May, Intermedia officials said. Rob Manning, president of the telecom company, said Intermedia is awaiting regulatory approval in California, a vote from Intermedia shareholders and an April 6 hearing to settle a class-action case with shareholders of itsDigex Inc. subsidiary. Intermedia and WorldCom recently restructured their deal to give Digex shareholders a bigger payout.

ELECTRONIC TAX FILINGS RISE: The number of income tax returns filed electronically by people who do their own taxes is up 35 percent over last year, the Internal Revenue Service reports. Counting returns from paid preparers, IRS officials project that one out of three individual returns will be filed electronically this year.

JUDGE WITHDRAWS FROM MICROSOFT CASE: Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson has recused himself from presiding over a racial discrimination lawsuit filed against Microsoft Corp. Jackson cited his involvement with the company's monopoly trial and its case with the U.S. Court of Appeals for his decision, Dow Jones Newswires reported. Jackson was randomly given the discrimination case, filed in January by Palmetto resident Peter Browne and six other current and former black Microsoft workers.

NORTHWEST MECHANICS REJECT OFFER: The union for Northwest Airlines' mechanics rejected an unofficial company offer for a 26 percent initial wage increase and a 112 percent pension increase. Northwest also increased its retroactive pay proposal by more than 100 percent, from $41-million for the union's roughly 9,500 mechanics, cleaners and custodians to $88-million. The rejected retroactive pay would have given an average veteran mechanic a lump sum of $10,000, up from the company's previous offer of $4,100.

TYCO TO BUY CIT GROUP: Tyco International Ltd. is buying commercial lender CIT Group Inc. for about $9.2-billion in cash and stock. L. Dennis Kozlowski, Tyco's chairman and chief executive, said buying CIT will help Tyco -- whose products include electronic equipment, fire and security systems and disposable medical supplies -- grow faster, while allowing the 93-year-old finance company to bolster its lending business.

FIRST UNION DISCLOSES CEO COMPENSATION: First Union Corp. paid chief executive Ken Thompson $8.6-million last year, though the head of the sixth-largest U.S. bank didn't get a bonus for a second year. Thompson, 50, received a $940,000 salary, $697,531 in restricted stock, and stock options estimated to be worth $2.6-million. He also received $4.3-million to replace a retirement plan that was abandoned at the end of last year.

DELTA FORECASTS LOSS: Delta Air Lines expects a first-quarter loss of $85-million to $100-million, which it blamed on a weak economy, its reduced flight schedule and the possibility of a pilots' strike. The loss would amount to 70 cents to 90 cents per share. Analysts expected Delta to earn 46 cents a share. Shares of Delta, one of the largest carriers serving Tampa International Airport, fell $1.64 to $41.46.

Earnings Kmart Corp.

The Troy, Mich., retailer's income dropped 40 percent in the fiscal quarter ended Jan. 31, but the results still beat Wall Street's expectations by a penny.

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