Thursday, March 6, 2003

Business digest

Compiled from wire reports

Auction outcome: Conseco unit sale

INDIANAPOLIS - Conseco Inc.'s money-losing consumer finance unit would be split into two pieces and sold for $1 billion under the winning bid in an all-night bankruptcy auction that concluded Wednesday.

Conseco Finance Corp. accepted a bid to sell its $23 billion mobile home loan portfolio to a New York investment partnership and another piece of its business to General Electric's consumer lending unit.

The partnership, CFN Investments, and GE Consumer Finance won a 21-hour auction.

Proceeds from the sales will help satisfy creditors owed $6.5 billion in parent company debt.

Petsmart sees slowdown in growth

PHOENIX - Shares of Petsmart Inc., the biggest U.S. pet-supplies retailer, fell as much as 31 percent after fourth-quarter profit excluding some costs missed analyst estimates and the company said net income this quarter will decline.

Sales rose less than 1 percent in the fourth quarter ended Feb. 2, after pet owners spent less on extras such as doghouses and cat beds. Revenue had gained an average 13 percent a quarter the previous five.

"Pet spending is supposed to be recession-resistant," said Chip Cruice of Greenville Capital Management, which sold its 300,000 Petsmart shares in January.

Today's Man again files for bankruptcy

WASHINGTON - Clothing retailer Today's Man Inc. has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection - a second time - listing assets of $37.8 million and debts of $36.5 million.

The menswear retailer also announced Wednesday that Bruce Weitz "will no longer be president and CEO of the company." His departure was effective this past Monday.

Merger in trouble; investors respond

OAKLAND, Calif. - Investors turned a cold shoulder to ice cream maker Dreyer's Wednesday, sending shares down 15 percent a day after federal regulators announced they will seek to block a $2.8 billion merger with Nestle.

The shares plummeted $10.88 on the Nasdaq Stock Market, closing at $63.70, on news the Federal Trade Commission would move to block the deal, saying it would raise prices for "superpremium" ice cream.

A merger of Nestle Holdings Inc. and Oakland-based Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream Inc. would create a company that controls nearly two-thirds of the market for the richest ice cream.

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