Friday, April 16, 2004

Business digest

Globalstar exits from bankruptcy

Satellite phone company Globalstar LP, which burned through billions of dollars before declaring insolvency, exited from bankruptcy Thursday when a private equity firm bought it for $43 million.

Globalstar filed for bankruptcy in April 2002 after the consortium, led by Loral and Qualcomm, spent $4 billion to build a global satellite system.

Last April, a company led by wireless billionaire Craig O. McCaw signed a deal to buy Globalstar for $55 million. But McCaw's company pulled out in October and Thermo Capital Partners LLC, a private equity firm which had bid against McCaw, put in a new offer.

The deal, announced in November and completed Thursday, gives New Orleans-based Thermo 81.25 percent ownership of the company.

Weirton board chooses buyout offer from ISG

Weirton Steel Corp.'s board Thursday accepted a buyout offer from International Steel Group, but would not reveal details of either the winning bid or the one it rejected.

The vote sets the stage for a final hearing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court on Tuesday, where a judge could approve the sale and make ISG the nation's largest integrated steel maker. Judge L. Edward Friend II has already scheduled two days for the case.

ISG's offer began at $255 million but may have increased during a closed-door auction in Pittsburgh this week. Although a group of creditors offered Weirton more money, the board ultimately decided ISG's proposal offered better long-term prospects for the company's survival.

Cuba to purchase $80M in U.S. food

U.S. agribusiness has agreed to sell at least $80 million in food to Cuba, officials said Thursday, during trade talks marked by a meeting between Cuba's president and hundreds of American farm representatives.

The Americans are attending several days of talks organized by Cuba, with both sides hoping to build trade relationships that until recent years have been outlawed.

Cuban authorities said at least $80 million in sales had been arranged and more deals were expected today.

The Cubans listed some of the larger contracts signed during talks that began Tuesday: $10 million in corn from Cargill Inc., $6 million in soybeans from FC Stone and $9 million in corn from Archer Daniels Midland.

UAW membership hits lowest mark since '42

The United Auto Workers continued to lose members in 2003, dropping 14,000 and falling to its lowest level since 1942, according to union documents filed with the Department of Labor.

Membership fell to 624,585 in 2003 from 638,722 at the end of 2002.

Despite the drop in membership, the union raised more money from union dues in 2003 to $214.3 million, up from $209 million in 2002, the Detroit Free Press reported Thursday.

The UAW, headquartered in Detroit, peaked at 1.53 million members in 1969 and still had 1.5 million as of 1979.

Citigroup reports earnings rise of 29%

Citigroup, the nation's largest financial institution, reported Thursday that earnings rose 29 percent in the first quarter, soundly beating analysts' estimates.

The bank, based in New York, said net income totaled $5.27 billion, or $1.01 a share, in January-March, up from the $4.1 billion, or 79 cents a share, a year earlier.

The results included an after-tax gain of $180 million, or 3 cents a share, from the sale of part of Citigroup's electronic funds services business, the bank said.

The results exceeded by a wide margin the 94 cents expected by analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call.

Publisher to launch newspapers in Spanish

A subsidiary of a Spanish newspaper publisher Thursday said it will launch four Spanish-language daily newspapers in Texas in June, joining the battle for the nation's fast-growing Hispanic population.

The newspapers will be published in Houston, San Antonio, Austin and the Lower Rio Grande Valley by Meximerica Media, a unit of Recoletos Grupo de Comunicacion S.A. The newspapers, called Rumbo, will be tabloid-sized and aimed at Hispanics between the ages of 21 and 45.

From wire reports

5/3 profits up 10% in quarter
McDonald's taking steps to pump up its McImage
LabOne stays in Cincinnati
Provident's new owner plans big
The Toyota Way
In the works: Searching three-dimensional Web
Delta's finance chief leaving
Home goods major focus at Federated
Real estate booming in ex-communist states
Other banks fare well in 1st quarter
Perry nuclear power plant flagged for minor violations
N.Ky. gets big convention
Tristate business summary
Business digest