Friday, August 6, 2004

Business digest

Gas-electric SUV on assembly line

From wire reports

CLAYCOMO, Mo. - Ford Motor Co. kicked off formal production Thursday of a hybrid version of its Escape SUV, the world's first gas-electric hybrid sport utility vehicle and the first hybrid by an American automaker.

Bill Ford, Ford's chairman and chief executive, drove the Escape into a roomful of autoworkers at the plant, which will build 20,000 of the vehicles in the 2005 model year. Ford said providing a cleaner-burning, more fuel-efficient vehicle would keep the company competitive as more consumers consider gas prices and pollution when buying a car.

The Escape joins the Toyota Prius and the hybrid version of the Honda Civic as the only gas-electric vehicles available.

Pension money waits to be claimed

NEW YORK - The government is holding $75 million in unclaimed pension benefits for thousands of Americans.

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., which insures private-sector pensions, said Thursday that its registry lists 26,000 people eligible for benefits averaging about $3,675.

In most cases, the pension money went to the PBGC when companies went bankrupt.

Americans who believe they may be eligible for pension money should check for their names on the PBGC site at

Suit says drug firms overcharged Medicaid

NEW YORK - New York City officials filed a lawsuit in federal court late Wednesday against 44 drug makers, claiming they overcharged Medicaid.

The suit filed in the Southern District of New York names some of the largest makers of prescription medications, including Aventis Pharmaceuticals Inc., Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., Eli Lilly and Co., Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co. Inc., Schering-Plough Corp. and Wyeth.

"Aventis believes it has complied fully with the laws and regulations governing the Medicare and Medicaid systems," Aventis spokeswoman Christine Kirby said.

Spokesmen at several other drug makers declined to comment Thursday.

Demand for auto parts boosts hiring at plant

CLEVELAND - International Steel Group Inc. said Thursday it was expanding its Cleveland Works mill to accommodate high demand from automotive customers and would recall 50 workers.

The expansion comes at a time when others in the U.S. steel industry are holding steady or shrinking their work forces. Just last month, ISG restarted a second blast furnace at its newly acquired plant in West Virginia, recalling 50 steelworkers to raise employment at the former bankrupt Weirton Steel Corp. to 1,900. And in May, ISG reopened some of its west side Cleveland Works mill, bringing back 140 people.

Coca-Cola revises production figures

ATLANTA - The Coca-Cola Co. said Thursday it inadvertently inflated worldwide unit case volume increases for two quarters last year, and underreported volume in the first three months of this year.

The world's biggest beverage company blamed the mistakes on errors in production numbers reported to Coke by an Indonesian water company with which it is affiliated.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Coke revised its worldwide unit case volume increase to 4 percent for the second quarter of 2003 compared to the previous year. It had previously reported a 5 percent increase.

Coca-Cola shares fell 35 cents to close at $43.85 Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange.

On the Net:

British airport workers taking strike vote

LONDON - Thousands of airport workers began voting Thursday on whether to strike in support of higher pay - a move that could result in crippling walkouts at Britain's major airports at the height of the tourist season.

Unions representing British Airways baggage-handlers and check-in staff have rejected a three-year pay offer worth between 8.5 percent and 10.5 percent, depending upon pension benefits. British Airways says it cannot afford the unions' demands, which it says amount to 14.5 percent.

Unions have not set a possible strike date.

British Airways on Wednesday offered to take the dispute to arbitration.

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Wireless deal keeps network
Chiquita's 2nd quarter sales up 2.3%
O'Gara gets more to armor Humvees
Tristate summary
Microsoft introduces burglar bars for XP
Retail sales sluggish in July
Russian parliament brews up ad strictures
Business digest