Friday, December 5, 2003

Business digest

From staff/wire reports

Kroger argues strikers not eligible for benefits

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A lawyer for the Kroger Co. argued Thursday that it is not obligated to maintain certain levels of health care benefits for its employees, attacking a central union argument that striking workers were locked out and therefore eligible for unemployment benefits.

Under West Virginia law, employees involved in a labor dispute are not eligible for jobless benefits unless they are locked out by their employer in an effort to force cuts in wages or benefits.

"It is uncontradicted that we offered them an increase in wages, offered them increased contributions to health care," lawyer Kevin Carr told a panel of hearing the appeal.

Some 3,300 members of the United Food and Commercial Workers' Local 400 in West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio have been off the job since Oct. 13, when contract negotiations with Cincinnati-based Kroger fell apart over health care and other issues.

Xanodyne Pharmacal to merge with Integrity

FLORENCE - Xanodyne Pharmacal Inc. announced Thursday it would merge with Indianapolis-based Integrity Pharmaceutical Corp.

The new company will be based in Florence and will focus on the specialty medicine fields of pain management, bleeding disorders, urology and women's health.

The companies are part of the health care portfolio of Union Springs LLC, an investment company that specializes in funding emerging health care companies.

Utility watchdog urges mandatory standards

CLEVELAND - Ohio's utility watchdog office on Thursday asked a government task force studying the nation's worst blackout to recommend mandatory transmission reliability standards and severe consequences for noncompliance.

Jeffrey Small of the Ohio Consumers' Counsel office was among a handful of people who spoke at a hearing on the U.S.-Canadian task force's report on the Aug. 14 blackout, which affected an estimated 50 million people.

A three-month investigation found the blackout could have been prevented and four industry reliability standards were violated by Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp., along with two violations by the Midwest grid operator.

Penn sells Big Bear chain in bankruptcy

The Chicago-based Penn Traffic Co., has begun auctioning off its Big Bear supermarket chain in federal bankruptcy court, including 11 stores in central Ohio that Cincinnati-based Kroger Co. has offered to buy for $20 million.

But other interested companies, including Pittsburgh-based Giant Eagle, have also submitted offers for parts of the 67-store chain that is to be liquidated by early January.

Lindner buys 135,000 more shares of AFG

Reds owner Carl Lindner, chairman and chief executive officer of American Financial Group Inc., continues to buy shares of the company's stock. Lindner bought more than 135,000 shares between Nov. 14 and Nov. 26, paying between $23.06 and $24.36, following a trend of several years. He and his family now own more than 40 percent of AFG's common stock.

Chrysler ex-chairman says deal not takeover

WILMINGTON, Del. - Former Chrysler chairman Robert Eaton said the 1998 merger he negotiated with Daimler-Benz was not a takeover of Chrysler.

Eaton also insisted Thursday the new DaimlerChrysler AG had the right to change its corporate structure - even if that meant giving Germans significant controls.

Eaton's testimony came on the fourth day of the federal trial in which Chrysler shareholder Kirk Kerkorian is asking for more than $1 billion in compensatory damages from DaimlerChrysler. Kerkorian says he was duped into losing an acquisitions fee because Daimler-Benz falsely characterized its takeover as a "merger of equals."

Dollar rebounds off record low versus euro

NEW YORK - The dollar rebounded Thursday, ending North American trading mostly higher against its key rivals, after falling to new lows against the euro for a fifth straight day in a volatile session.

The big swings came as liquidity starts to dry up ahead of the holidays, traders say, with speculative positioning and options-related trading moving the market more than economic events.

Reports to explain air delays
Short shrift for arts?
Wendy's accepting credit cards
Bush casts off steel tariffs
Wornick sold to holding firm
Pilots, Delta appear far apart in talks
GE realignment includes aircraft engine unit here
Bush mercury plan allows trading credits
OPEC keeps output target unchanged
Post-Saddam Iraq reports steady boost in oil output
Hard numbers dim retail hopes for happy holiday
W.Va. last link in coffee chain
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