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DANKA, EX-CEO AGREE TO PACKAGE: Danka Business Systems will give former chief executive Larry Switzer a severance package worth approximately $7.5-million. Switzer, who joined the St. Petersburg copier distributor in August 1998 but left abruptly last October, will receive $1.6-million in direct payments plus $5.9-million in life insurance proceeds, Danka stock, lawyers' fees and health insurance premiums under an arbitrated settlement. Separately, Danka's holding company sold its Ameritrend Corp. unit, a seller and servicer of commercial telephones, for $1.6-million in cash and assumed debt. The company will use the proceeds to pay down its bank debt.
JABIL, SINGAPORE COMPANY LINKED: Shares in Venture Manufacturing Singapore Ltd. are soaring amid speculation the electronics manufacturer is being sought by U.S. rival Jabil Circuit of St. Petersburg. Jabil executives could not be reached for comment. Venture, Singapore's biggest maker of electronics parts for companies such as Hewlett-Packard, said in a statement that its directors were not aware of any circumstances that could have led to its shares jumping 8 percent on the Singapore exchange over the past two days. Shares in Jabil, meanwhile, headed the opposite direction, slumping almost 20 percent the past two days in a sluggish tech market. Jabil closed near a five-month low of $18.60 a share, down $2.40, or 11.4 percent.
AIRLINE LABOR TALKS CONTINUE: US Airways commuter carrier Piedmont Airlines and the union representing its flight attendants will enter final contract talks next week to avoid a strike beginning Sept. 16. The National Mediation Board on Aug. 17 released the airline's 250 flight attendants to strike after 30 days if the two sides can't agree to a contract. The Association of Flight Attendants says members may conduct mass walkouts or strike individual flights and routes. Operating as US Airways Express, Piedmont operates 29 daily departures from Tampa International Airport to Miami, Tallahassee, Jacksonville and Pensacola.
TRUST COMPANY IN THE WORKS: A group headed by a former First Union executive has filed with state regulators to form a new trust company in Tampa. Pending approval, Coast Trust Co. will open at 1300 West Shore Blvd. in November. Frank Clewis, a former senior portfolio manager with First Union's First Investment Advisers in St. Petersburg, will be chairman and CEO. Dick Hunt, a financial adviser for Coast, said organizers plan to raise in excess of the minimum $2-million required by the state. The new company will target clients of larger institutions who are frustrated by service levels and those who lack the minimum balances required by some institutions.
FALL SALES OFF TO SLOW START: In a preview of how U.S. retailers may fare this fall, Sears, Roebuck and Co. and Kohl's Corp. reported disappointing sales numbers for August, the first month in the back-to-school selling season. Sears said its sales at U.S. stores open at least a year were flat, rising only 0.2 percent. And while Kohl's reported August sales rose 4.9 percent, it was less than what analysts expected and marked a drop from a 14.3 percent sales gain in July. "What's we're seeing here is a disappointing start to the back-to-school season," said Kurt Barnard, president of Barnard's Retail Trend Report. American Express, which annually surveys teens and parents about fall spending, predicted outlays on school-related items would fall 4 percent this year from a year ago.
WINN-DIXIE CEO'S BONUS SOARS: Allen Rowland, hired to overhaul Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. in 1999, saw his performance bonus increase five-fold to $1.18-million in fiscal 2000. The bonus comes on top of Rowland's $735,000 salary as chief executive of the Jacksonville grocer. Rowland got the bigger bonus after the company met sales and pretax profit goals outlined in a restructuring plan.
FORMER CLEARWATER BROKER BARRED: The New York Stock Exchange barred former broker Richard Lee Harkins of Clearwater from the securities industry after finding he misappropriated $90,625 from three customers' accounts in 1998 and 1999. At the time he was working for the Seminole and Belleair Bluffs branch offices of A.G. Edwards & Sons. Harkins, 54, consented to the findings but could not be reached for comment.
JOB CUTS DROP IN AUGUST: Job-cut announcements at U.S. employers fell 32 percent in August from July, according to outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. But announced cuts remained at a brisk pace, totaling 140,019, compared with 205,975 in July. The three-month moving average of job-cut announcements rose to 470,000, and the total number of announced job cuts in 2001 rose to 1,123,356.
ROYAL CARIBBEAN CUTS COMMISSIONS: Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. said it's cutting the commission it pays to travel agents for booking air travel to its cruises, following industry leader Carnival Corp. Royal Caribbean will cut the commission to 5 percent from 10 percent of the cost of a ticket starting Sept. 15. The move cut is the latest blow to travel agents, who staged a walkout Friday protesting commission cuts by major airlines. Richard Copland, president of the American Society of Travel Agents, said travel agents may lose $75-million in commissions annually if the other cruise lines follow Carnival and Royal Caribbean.
NURSING HOME COSTS JUMP: The expense of caring for nursing home residents nearly tripled over 10 years to $70-billion, said the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The agency, part of the Health and Human Services Department, based its data on a survey of nursing homes and residents on their expenses from 1987 to 1996. Industry officials said large increases were due mostly to inflation and to the often higher costs of taking on patients discharged early from hospitals.
AGE BIAS SUIT BROKEN UP: A judge has disbanded a class-action lawsuit by 160 former employees who claimed they were victims of age discrimination in layoffs and demotions after First Union Corp. takeovers in the early 1990s. U.S. District Judge Alan Gold said the workers did not show evidence of a discriminatory pattern, and their jobs were too different to justify keeping everyone together under a single lawsuit. The decision allows the workers to pursue their cases individually, but they would lose the strategic advantage of strength in numbers when taking their cases to a jury one at a time.
AIRLINE PERFORMANCE IMPROVES: Nearly one in every four U.S. flights arrived late in July, but that's not really bad news when compared with last year. The Department of Transportation reported that 78.1 percent of all flights arrived within 15 minutes of the scheduled time in July, an improvement from 70.3 percent a year ago. Cancellations also declined, with 2.1 percent of all flights canceled in July, compared with 3.2 percent a year earlier.
CITIBANK ATMS BACK UP: Citibank restored service at its 2,000 automated teller machines after they were shut down intermittently for a second day by computer software problems. The company's online banking services remained out of commission. A Citibank spokesman said he was not sure when online banking operations would be restored. Bank officials said the problem apparently was triggered by high cash demands after the Labor Day weekend. Some internal bank systems also were affected, they said.
TREASURY AUCTION: Interest rates on four-week Treasury bills fell in Wednesday's auction. The Treasury sold $12-billion of the bills at a discount rate of 3.43 percent, down from 3.47 percent last week. The new discount rates understate the actual return to investors: 3.490 percent for four-week bills.
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