Thursday, February 6, 2003

Business digest



SEC probing food distributor

Minneapolis-based Nash Finch Co., one of the largest wholesale food distributors in the country, Wednesday said the Securities and Exchange Commission has begun a formal investigation of its accounting practices.

Nash Finch also said its auditor, Deloitte & Touche LLP, resigned Jan. 28. The auditor reported no disagreements, but said that because of its resignation, it had been unable to investigate matters that "if further investigated may materially impact a previously issued audit report."

Nash Finch had previously reported an informal probe by the SEC into its handling of promotional allowances from vendors.

San Antonio wins auto plant

Arkansas officials lost their battle for a Toyota truck plant Wednesday, but emerged with assurance that major companies know that all roads lead to a 5,000-acre cotton, rice and bean field in the Delta.

The Japanese automaker said Wednesday it would build an $800 million plant near San Antonio - a site with ready access to millions of truck drivers and a Latin-American landscape that Toyota would love to tap.

The automaker said it normally does not comment on its selection process, but issued a statement praising a site near Marion, Ark., and thanking the state for the effort it put forth in attempting to attract the plant.

It just wasn't close enough to Mexico to overcome San Antonio's geographic advantage, Toyota officials said.

Fleming: Ch. 11 fear `ludicrous'

Shares of Fleming Cos., the nation's largest grocery distributor, rebounded slightly Wednesday after it said it doesn't risk financial insolvency in the wake of losing its largest customer, Kmart Corp.

Chief financial officer Mark Shapiro late Tuesday said the notion that Fleming might file for bankruptcy was "ludicrous."

Fleming's stock dived 30 percent in Tuesday trading after the Dallas-based company said it would end its 10-year grocery-supply agreement with Kmart.

Fleming shares closed Wednesday at $2.76, up 14 cents, on the New York Stock Exchange.

Retailer warns on earnings

Costs associated with the resignation of president Steven Silverstein will push Linens 'n Things Inc.'s earnings for its next quarter below Wall Street estimates, the company said Wednesday.

Tuesday, the company said Silverstein stepped down from his post as the company's president to "pursue other interests." No successor has been named.

Linens 'n Things said net income more than quadrupled during the latest quarter that ended Jan. 4, thanks in part to a 23 percent increase in sales.

However, the Clifton, N.J., operator of home-furnishings stores warned that Silverstein's departure will cause it to book a charge of about 3 cents a share in the following quarter.

Ameritrade makes pitch

Ameritrade Holding Corp., the biggest online broker by trades, is offering $50 to customers who transfer their accounts from rival firms as discount brokers try to battle the stock-market slump.

Ameritrade plans to spend up to $1 million to lure 20,000 new customers with its "Switchers' Reserve" offer, which will be advertised in national business publications starting today, said spokeswoman Natalie Carlson.

The Omaha, Neb.-based company's offer is aimed at attracting frequent traders from other firms at a time when the three-year decline in U.S. stock markets has moved many investors to the sidelines.

Tyco meeting plan protested

Tyco International Ltd.'s plan to hold its annual meeting in Bermuda - where the conglomerate is based in name only - has angered the AFL-CIO, which says the gathering should take place in the United States.

Richard Trumka, the union's secretary-treasurer, requested in a letter to Tyco CEO Edward D. Breen on Wednesday that the meeting be returned to the United States so shareholders can more easily attend.

The manufacturing conglomerate, incorporated in Bermuda but run from its U.S. headquarters in Exeter, N.H., has tentatively scheduled the meeting for the second week in March. Tyco has been based in Bermuda since 1997, and the annual meetings have been held there.

The AFL-CIO also is asking that Tyco reincorporate in the United States, where laws offer more protection to shareholders.



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