Friday, January 3, 2003

Business Digest

Chase settles with 11 insurance firms

NEW YORK - J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. has reached agreement with its insurance companies to settle a $1 billion dispute over failed trading pacts with the now-bankrupt Enron Corp.

The New York bank said that under the deal announced Thursday, the 11 companies will pay approximately 60 percent of the amount of the surety bonds they wrote, or about $655 million.

McDonald's yanks high-tech project

DES MOINES, Iowa - McDonald's Corp., in a cost-saving move, Thursday said it has pulled the plug on what had been envisioned as a global digital network linking its fast-food restaurants, headquarters and vendors, called "Innovate." The move is expected to save the company "tens of millions of dollars" this year, a McDonald's spokesman said.

Rebuilding seen in survey

NEW YORK - After two years of cost-cutting, economists expect companies to start using rising profits to rebuild inventories and make capital improvements in 2003, helping to fuel an economic recovery, a survey published Thursday said.

The Wall Street Journal's 2003 economic-forecast survey of 55 economists indicates that economists generally think increased corporate spending will contribute to steady economic growth throughout the year.

Fiat stock rises on buyout reports

MILAN, Italy - Fiat SpA's shares rose almost 10 percent Thursday following reports former Telecom Italia chairman Roberto Colaninno may be working on a plan to buy into the ailing Italian automaker.

Italian news reports said Mr. Colaninno is devising an $8 billion plan to turn around Fiat, staggering under heavy debt and slumping sales in its auto unit. Mr. Colaninno's representatives declined to confirm or deny the reported plan.

H&R worker named in ID scam

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. - An office manager at the H&R Block tax-help company used customers' names, Social Security numbers and dates of birth to steal their refund checks, withdraw cash from their bank accounts and spend thousands of dollars with fake credit cards, prosecutors say.

The two-year scam was punctuated with shopping sprees during which the employee and three accomplices used the credit cards at various malls and picked up cashfrom bank machines, according to a federal complaint.

StarOffice deal OK'd for Denmark

COPENHAGEN, Denmark - Sun Microsystems Denmark said Thursday it struck an agreement with the country's education ministry to give away its latest StarOffice to students and teachers.

The agreement means primary and secondary pupils, higher education students, their teachers and staff can download StarOffice 6.0 for free or pay a government agency $1.40 for a CD-ROM.

Restoration down on lower outlook

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Shares of Restoration Hardware Inc. plunged Thursday after the home decorating retailer reported disappointing holiday sales and lowered its fourth-quarter sales and earnings forecasts.

The reduced estimates means the Corte Madera, Calif., retailer won't make its goal of returning to full-year profitability for its fiscal year ending this month.

- From wire reports

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Business Digest