Thursday, February 27, 2003

Tristate summary

Staff and wire reports

First Financial to buy back stock

The parent of First Financial Bank Wednesday said it plans to repurchase up to 5 percent of its stock.

Hamilton-based First Financial Bancorp will buy back about 2.3 million shares in the open market or in privately negotiated transactions. No time frame for the stock buyback was set.

The repurchase was worth about $36.5 million, based on the company's closing stock price of $15.88 Wednesday.

Stan Pontius, First Financial's chief executive, said that at current prices, the stock repurchase offers the company an attractive investment to help mange its strong capital position.

Big Lots profits won't be larger

Columbus-based Big Lots Inc., the largest U.S. retailer of discontinued and overstocked goods, Wednesday said it expects first-quarter profit to be unchanged or fall from a year earlier as sales decline.

Earnings will be 7 cents to 11 cents a share in the period ending May 3, the company said. Big Lots reported net income of 11 cents a share a year earlier.

Sales at stores open at least a year declined this month because of colder weather, missing forecasts of a 1 percent to 3 percent increase, the company said.

Teamsters reject Cargill's offer

Remaining Teamsters who struck the Cargill Inc. salt mine under Lake Erie nine months ago have voted 31-20 to reject a contract offer.

The miners, meeting at the union headquarters in suburban Valley View, rejected the five-year contract this week. Another 17 workers eligible to vote did not attend.

The dispute began in May when 165 members of Local 436 struck over issues involving scheduling, seniority and subcontracting. The miners agreed to return to work in August, but the Minneapolis-based company had already rehired replacement workers.

Tell Federated what you think

Federated Department Stores, which operates Lazarus, Bloomingdale's and other chains, has named a new chief executive at a time when many department stores are struggling. So here's your chance: What would you tell new CEO Terry Lundgren? What would you do to change how the stores are operated? E-mail your responses to

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