Thursday, June 5, 2003

Business digest

From wire reports

U.S. workers' productivity rises

WASHINGTON - America's productivity improved in the first quarter of 2003 as companies produced more while keeping their work forces lean.

The Labor Department reported Wednesday that productivity - the amount an employee produces per hour of work - grew at an annual rate of 1.9 percent from January through March.

That compares with the 1.6 percent growth previously estimated for the quarter and the 0.7 percent growth rate in the final quarter of 2002.

Companies have been able to meet customers' sluggish demand for goods and services by relying on fewer workers or existing employees, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and private economists have said.

That is contributing to a stagnant employment picture and made it difficult for people to find jobs, economists said. In the first quarter of 2003, the economy lost more than a quarter-million jobs.

Slot machine maker to split its stock

International Game Technology, the world's largest maker of slot machines, will split its shares 4- for-1, and begin paying a quarterly dividend of 7.5 cents after the company's stock rose 41 percent during the past year.

IGT will issue three shares for every one held by investors at the close of trading June 18, with the shares trading post-split on or about July 2. IGT's profit has been boosted by the sale of slot machines that let gamblers wager with tickets instead of coins.

Saban deal to buy German firm fizzles

MUNICH, Germany - U.S. billionaire Haim Saban's deal to purchase Germany's second-largest private television broadcaster collapsed Tuesday after he failed to meet deadlines, Saban's company and the liquidator of the bankrupt Kirch media group said.

"The open points between the buyer, the seller and the banks couldn't be cleared up within the agreed deadlines," according to a joint statement saying the contract had been canceled.

KirchMedia, the core business of Bavarian media mogul Leo Kirch, filed for bankruptcy protection from creditors in April 2002. Its assets, including Germany's No. 2 private TV station ProSiebenSat.1, are being sold off to pay debts.

Saban, who grew rich supplying music for cartoons and marketing the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, beat several other bidders to reach a deal to acquire 72 percent of ProSiebenSat.1's voting rights and all KirchMedia's film rights library.

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