Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Business digest

PeopleSoft alters bid for J.D.Edwards & Co.

Enquirer staff and wire reports

PeopleSoft Inc., trying to fend off a hostile takeover by Oracle Corp., revised its $1.76 billion all-stock offer for rival business-software maker J.D. Edwards & Co. to pay half of the price in cash and speed up the transaction.

The combination of stock and $863 million in cash values the offer for J.D. Edwards about $14.33 a share, Pleasanton, California-based PeopleSoft said in a statement. J.D. Edwards investors can choose to receive shares, cash or both.

The deal might be completed more quickly now because PeopleSoft and J.D. Edwards shareholders won't get a vote on it, as they would have under the previous terms. Oracle chief executive Larry Ellison may have to raise his $5.1 billion cash bid for PeopleSoft soon to avoid having to buy both companies and lose out on PeopleSoft's cash, investors and analysts said.

Budget-cutting goal met, says Ford CEO

DEARBORN, Mich. - Ford Motor Co. chairman and chief executive Bill Ford Jr. said Monday the automaker already has reached its goal of trimming expenses by $500 million this year, evidence the company's turnaround effort is working.

Speaking at Ford's annual meeting, Bill Ford said the company was starting its second century in business in a fiercely competitive environment. Still, he noted, the world's No. 2 automaker has seen its quality improve by 5 percent in the past year, its recalls decline by 40 percent and its warranty payments drop by 10 percent.

Ford said the company also expects its U.S. market share to increase slightly in 2003, even as foreign automakers increase capacity and models in the domestic market.

WorldCom legal bill now more than $50M

WorldCom Inc., which filed the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history last July, was billed $28.4 million in fees and expenses by 17 law firms last week, bringing the company's reorganization legal bill to more than $50 million.

The law firms billed the company $26.5 million in legal fees and $1.9 million in expenses for work done mostly between December and April, bankruptcy papers filed in New York show. "It's not shockingly high," said securities law professor Marcel Kahan of New York University School of Law.

Kmart first-quarter loss down to $862M

TROY, Mich. - The holding company of discount retailer Kmart Corp. reported Monday that its first-quarter loss narrowed to $862 million from $1.44 billion a year ago as it worked to emerge from bankruptcy.

The loss for the quarter ended April 30 was $1.65 per share, compared with $2.87 in its fiscal 2002 first quarter.

"This management team is very focused on building the financial foundation of the new company," said Julian Day, Kmart president and chief executive. "We are strengthening our business by driving profitable sales, identifying opportunities to further improve efficiency and reduce costs."

Excluding interest, reorganization costs, income taxes and discontinued operations, Kmart said it would have lost $32 million, compared with a loss of $920 million in the first quarter of last year.

Net sales for the quarter were $6.18 billion, down 13.9 percent from $7.18 billion in 2002.

United Airlines to offer e-mail, messaging

CHICAGO - Get Message: In-flight e-mail and instant messaging are about to become fixtures of the U.S. skies.

Hoping to get a jump on the competition in the scramble for business travelers, United Airlines is set to announce today that it will be the first commercial carrier to offer two-way e-mail capability aboard all its domestic flights.

Royal Caribbean's new ships to be biggest

Royal Caribbean Cruises is getting set to build new ships that would be the largest afloat.

The world's second biggest cruise company Monday said it is working with Finland's Kvaerner-Masa Yards for one and possibly two Ultra-Voyager class ships that would hold 3,600 passengers and come out in 2006 and either 2007 or 2008. The ships would hold 500 more people than the Miami company's four Voyager vessels each hold now.

Short-term T-bills hit lowest rate on record

WASHINGTON - Interest rates on short-term Treasury securities fell in Monday's auction, with rates on six-month bills dropping to their lowest level on record.

The Treasury Department sold $18 billion in three-month bills at a discount rate of 0.840 percent, down from 1.005 percent last week. An additional $18 billion was sold in six-month bills at a rate of 0.845 percent, down from 0.980 percent.

The three-month rate was the lowest since June 30, 1958, when the bills sold for 0.768 percent. The six-month rate was the lowest since the government began selling these bills on a regular basis in 1958.

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