Thursday, December 4, 2003

Business digest

From wire reports

Wal-Mart won't take MasterCard debits

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will stop accepting signature debit cards issued by MasterCard starting in February, the first major retailer to take such action since a suit settlement freed merchants to pick which credit and debit card services they use.

Wal-Mart, the world's biggest retailer, said Wednesday MasterCard's fees for the signature debit cards are too high. It will continue to accept Visa's signature debit cards.

A MasterCard spokesman didn't return a call for comment Wednesday.

Saudi Arabia hints at static OPEC output

VIENNA, Austria - Global demand for oil is sufficient to soak up current output, but Saudi Arabia, de facto leader of OPEC, warned that a cut in crude production was likely when seasonal demand falls next spring.

Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali Naimi hinted Wednesday that he supported other members of the oil producer's group calling for no change in output at this week's meeting on production policy.

Federal mediation back in grocery strike

LOS ANGELES - Federal mediation to settle the supermarket strike resumed Tuesday under a veil of secrecy, but as the labor dispute drags into its 53rd day, the gist of the talks is obvious: It is a high-stakes bargaining process being handled gingerly by the nation's top negotiator.

The latest round of negotiations - which continue Wednesday - fit into a pattern of on-again, off-again contract talks that have been personally orchestrated by the director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, Peter J. Hurtgen.

The labor dispute began Oct. 11 and has pitted 70,000 UFCW workers against 859 Ralphs, Vons and Albertson's stores throughout Southern California.

Enron's Houston center sold for $55.5M

HOUSTON - An investors' group has agreed to buy Enron Corp.'s 50-story downtown headquarters for $55.5 million, two years after the energy giant went bankrupt.

Dr. Antonio Pacifico, a cardiologist who heads the investors' group, bid on the oval-shaped, glass tower at a private auction Tuesday. A New York bankruptcy judge must approve the sale, said Richard Rudd of the real estate firm Granite Partners.

Enron went bankrupt after devastating revelations of hidden debt, inflated profits and accounting tricks that made the company appear more financially successful than it was.

Stonecipher wasn't Boeing's first choice

SEATTLE - Harry Stonecipher was not the first choice of The Boeing Co.'s directors to replace Phil Condit this week as chief executive.

W. James McNerney was.

A person with knowledge of the matter Tuesday confirmed a report in the Wall Street Journal that McNerney, who like Stonecipher is a member of the company's board, was asked by the board about taking over for Condit, but declined.

McNerney, the head of 3M Corp., is former head of General Electric Aircraft Engines in Evendale.

FirstEnergy to spend more on power lines

FirstEnergy Corp., the utility owner blamed for lapses that contributed to North America's biggest blackout, will increase capital spending on power lines 36 percent to $465 million next year to boost reliability.

Computer systems and operator training also will be expanded, and the company will adopt a policy of "zero tolerance" for transmission-line failures caused by trees, Charles Jones, senior vice president for energy delivery, said at an investor meeting in New York.

FirstEnergy computer failures, confused operators and electrical shorts from trees were cited by a U.S.-Canada task force as causes of the Aug. 14 blackout of an estimated 50 million customers.

Dana plans to sell replacement parts unit

TOLEDO, Ohio - Auto parts maker Dana Corp. said Wednesday it plans to sell its unit that makes replacement parts and employs 15,000 so it can focus on its original parts business.

The announcement came a week after Dana successfully fought off an unwanted takeover bid by rival ArvinMeritor Inc

Osteoporosis drug closes in on $1B mark
Appraiser says he was duped
Escort finds profit in new product
Omnicare keeps up expansion
Peale: What's the buzz?
Over-the-Rhine Chamber teams up
U.S. worker productivity soars
GEAE to cut 350 jobs for jet slump
SEC proposes rule to halt late trades
Tariff effects discussed
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