Thursday, July 8, 2004

Business digest

Pfizer to discount drugs for uninsured

The nation's largest drug company said Wednesday it will begin offering substantial discounts on its medications to all uninsured Americans, a move that may set a precedent for others.

Pfizer, whose products include cholesterol drug Lipitor, pain medication Celebrex and impotence treatment Viagra, says the program will be open to all those without health insurance, those on Medicare and those whose insurance does not cover drugs.

As an example of the savings, the company said the price of Lipitor would go from about $79 a month to $53, for a family earning less $41,000 a year.

The program comes amid growing criticism of the pharmaceutical industry about prices and its efforts to restrict the supply of medications to Canadian pharmacies that resell the drugs to U.S. residents.

Security tighter for airport workers

WASHINGTON - Tens of thousands of employees at airport restaurants, newsstands and other shops behind security checkpoints will soon have to undergo more detailed background checks and pass through metal detectors on their way to work.

New directives issued late Tuesday by the Transportation Security Administration also require all 445 commercial airports to reduce the number of doors behind security checkpoints used by airport and airline employees, and increase security for the remaining doors.

European charters buy Dreamliners

SEATTLE - Two air charter carriers, Blue Panorama of Italy and First Choice Airways of the United Kingdom, are the first in Europe that plan to buy Boeing Co.'s new 7E7 Dreamliner passenger jets, the company said Wednesday.

Blue Panorama plans to order four of the 7E7 jets while First Choice, formerly Air 2000, expects to buy six, Boeing said. The 10 planes would be worth $1.2 billion at list prices, although airlines typically negotiate substantial discounts.

Neither carrier has decided whether to order General Electric GENX or Rolls Royce Trent 1000 engines, Boeing said. The GENX is being developed in Evendale.

Another executive leaves accounting firm

NEW YORK - The chief financial officer of KPMG LLP has stepped down, continuing an exodus of top executives from the accounting firm as it contends with investigations of its tax-shelter business.

Richard Rosenthal, 48, chief financial officer since 2002, has resigned and is retiring, a company spokesman said Wednesday.

In a Senate subcommittee's 2003 report on the allegedly illegal tax shelters, Rosenthal is one of several KPMG executives named as having a role in devising and marketing the shelters.

Stormy weather made planes late

HEBRON - Airline on-time rates both locally and nationally dropped significantly in May, according to federal data released Wednesday. Carriers said thunderstorms and other weather were a major factor.

The Transportation Department said 75.6 percent of Delta Air Lines' flights arrived within 15 minutes of schedule in May, compared with 83 percent in April and 83.8 percent in May 2003.

Comair had an on-time rate of 78 percent, down from 85.3 percent in April (last year's statistics were not available).

Nationally, the nation's largest carriers averaged an on-time rate of 77.6 percent during May, down from 83 percent in April and 84.9 percent during May 2003.

Top executive exits Kettering firm

KETTERING - Reynolds & Reynolds Co., which makes office-management software used in most North American automobile dealerships, said Lloyd Waterhouse resigned as chairman, chief executive and president, effective immediately.

Waterhouse, 52, joined the Kettering, Ohio, firm in 1999. Director Philip Odeen, 68, who retired as chairman of TRW Inc. in December 2002, will become chairman and acting chief executive.

Waterhouse leaves less than two weeks after shares of Reynolds & Reynolds dropped the most ever when the company lowered third-quarter profit and sales forecasts.

Shares of Reynolds & Reynolds fell 83 cents, or 3.2 percent, to $22.12 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading.

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