Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Business Digest



WorldCom reveals reorganization plan

CLINTON, Miss. - WorldCom Inc., trying to emerge from the largest-ever U.S. bankruptcy, unveiled a reorganization plan Monday that would strip it of nine-tenths of its debt and give it a new name and headquarters.

WorldCom, whose plan gives creditors control of the company, said it will take the name of its long-distance service, MCI, and shift its headquarters to MCI's base in the Washington suburb of Ashburn, Va., from Clinton, Miss., where it was founded.

The plan, which erases about $36 billion in debt, has won the backing of 90 percent of its creditors - which should assure that the plan wins court approval.

In the meantime, WorldCom can't legally change its name until it emerges from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which could come as early as September. However, WorldCom's Web site as of Monday redirects visitors to MCI.com., and company news releases about the reorganization plan refer to Michael Capellas as chairman and CEO of MCI, not WorldCom.

American's pilots union extends voting

FORT WORTH, Texas - American Airlines' pilots union said it is extending voting on labor concessions for one day, until this morning.

The Allied Pilots Association said the extension was requested by the American Arbitration Association, which is handling the vote tabulation for American's three major labor unions. The flight attendants and ground workers unions already were set to end voting this morning.

The three unions are voting on tentative agreements to cover nearly all of the $1.8 billion in annual labor cost savings that American says it needs to avoid bankruptcy. The concessions include layoffs, pay cuts and reduced benefits.

American, the world's largest airline, has set a deadline of noon for all the unions to turn in results of the elections. If any of the unions reject the givebacks or fail to complete voting by that deadline, an American spokesman said the carrier will quickly file for bankruptcy protection.

Gas prices drop by 3.5 cents a gallon

WASHINGTON - The average retail pump price for U.S. regular gasoline fell by 3.5 cents to $1.595 a gallon as refiners passed on cheaper oil costs, the U.S. Energy Department said. It was the fourth straight weekly decline.

The price has dropped 7.7 percent from a record $1.728 in the week of March 17. Crude prices sank as concern eased that war in Iraq would disrupt Persian Gulf exports and Venezuela boosted exports to U.S. refiners after a strike.

The retail price, based on a survey of about 900 stations in 50 states, was still up 19.1 cents, or 14 percent, from a year ago.

AOL executives face insider trading suit

LOS ANGELES - AOL Time Warner Inc. chairman Stephen Case and other executives were accused in a lawsuit of making about $936 million through insider trading when America Online Inc. and Time Warner Inc. combined two years ago to form the world's largest media company.

The lawsuit filed by the University of California, adds accusations of insider trading and inflating subscriber growth at America Online to claims in a separate shareholder lawsuit that the company improperly booked advertising revenue. U.S. prosecutors and securities regulators are also investigating the ad revenue accounting.

The company's shares have lost three-fourths of their value since America Online took over Time Warner, which publishes Time magazine and operates the Warner Bros. movie studio.

Toyota expects jump in luxury car sales

DETROIT - Toyota Motor Corp. expects U.S. luxury sales to increase 24 percent to 1.9 million vehicles by 2005 as more baby boomers enter their peak earning years, said Denny Clements, the head of the Japanese carmaker's Lexus brand.

Clements said the baby boomers, the 82 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964, have been turning 50 and becoming more financially capable of buying expensive cars such as the Lexus RX330 with a starting price of $35,600. Automakers sold 1.69 million luxury cars and trucks last year in the U.S.

"A baby boomer turns 50 every eight seconds," Clements said.

- From wire reports




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