Thursday, March 13, 2003

Tristate summary

Compiled from staff and wire reports

Conseco exec's firing a surprise

Carmel, Ind.-based Conseco Inc. fired the head of its insurance division and three other key executives as a step toward tightening its management structure after it emerges from Chapter II bankruptcy, the Indianapolis Star reported.

The dismissal of Conseco Insurance Group president Liz Georgakopoulos late Monday caught officials by surprise. Georgakopoulos was among six executives the company had identified as its "most valuable assets" in January and was in line for millions of dollars in retention bonuses.

"Obviously, her departure surprised us. But it's nothing that had us in a panic," Indiana Deputy Insurance Commissioner Greg Thomas told the Star.

Georgakopoulos told the Star she had retained an attorney in case legal action became necessary, but declined more comment.

U.S. Bancorp raises dividend

The parent of U.S. Bank, with about 100 branches in Greater Cincinnati, has raised its quarterly dividend to 20.5 cents from 19.5 cents.

The new dividend for U.S. Bancorp will be paid April 15 to shareholders of record March 31.

The last time U.S. Bancorp raised its dividend was March 12, 2002, when it was increased to 19.5 cents on a quarterly basis.

U.S. Bank is the successor to Cincinnati's Star Bank, which was named Firstar before U.S. Bank merged with the company.

Guidant to buy X Technologies

Guidant Corp., the biggest maker of devices called stents that are used to hold open cleared blood vessels, has agreed to buy closely held X Technologies Inc. to add a product used to open heart arteries.

Terms weren't disclosed. Earlier, the Israeli-based Globes financial daily newspaper on its Web site valued the purchase at $200 million.

X Technologies makes the FX miniRail coronary catheter used to open clogged arteries. Guidant is adding heart products because of increased competition from Johnson & Johnson and Boston Scientific Corp., rivals that both have newer versions of stents than Guidant, analysts said.

The FX miniRail is available in Europe, and the purchase is contingent on the device's approval in the U.S., the companies said. Guidant doesn't expect the transaction to hurt earnings.

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