Thursday, June 19, 2003

Business digest

From wire reports

EDS Corp. to cut 2,700 employees

Electronic Data Systems Corp., the world's second-largest seller of computer services, plans to eliminate about 2,700 workers, or 2 percent of its staff, by the end of this year because of slowing demand.

EDS expects costs of 58 cents to 64 cents a share for the job cuts and asset writedowns. The company had about 138,000 employees at the end of the first quarter, spokesman Kevin Lightfoot said.

The Plano, Texas-based company didn't say where jobs would be cut. EDS employs hundreds of workers in Milford; it acquired the former Structural Dynamics Research Corp. in 2001. It soon started to lay off employees in Milford although it never disclosed how many. The Milford site once employed 900.

Chief Executive Michael Jordan on Wednesday outlined a plan to sell some assets, boost sales of services such as running computer networks and strengthen the company's balance sheet. Sales and profit at Electronic Data and rivals have slumped as clients cut orders.

Toyota gears up for expanded sales

Toyota Motor Corp., the world's third-largest automaker, said it will raise production at a British Columbia plant that makes car and truck wheels by a fifth in 2004 as part of plans to expand North American capacity.

Toyota's North American manufacturing headquarters is located in Erlanger.

The maker of Camry sedans will spend $7.5 million to expand aluminum wheel production in Delta, near Vancouver, to 1.45 million annually, up from about 1.2 million now, spokesman Dan Sieger said. Employment at the factory will increase "by a very small amount" from 230 people, Sieger said.

Toyota expects unit sales in the United States, its largest market, to rise 4 percent this year to 1.8 million. Analysts estimate 82 percent of Toyota's operating profit comes from North America.

GM, Chrysler more efficient; Honda slips

General Motors Corp. and DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler gained ground on Japanese rivals in manufacturing efficiency last year, while Honda Motor Co. was the only major North American automaker to slip in an annual benchmark study.

Japan's Nissan Motor Co. ranked first for the ninth straight year, taking an average 16.83 labor hours to build a vehicle in 2002 at its Smyrna, Tenn., assembly plant, according to the Harbour & Associates report. That's a 6.1 percent improvement from 2001 and 4.5 hours better than No. 2 Mitsubishi Motors Corp.

The survey shows that Detroit-based General Motors and Ford Motor Co., the world's two largest automakers, still lag Japanese rivals, whose market share has climbed over the past decade while that of U.S.-based manufacturers fell. Automakers that make cars in North America are trying to cut plant costs as they offer more discounts and boost spending on pensions and health care.

Microsoft defends antitrust settlement

WASHINGTON - Microsoft Corp. defended the antitrust settlement it negotiated with the Bush administration and 18 states, urging a U.S. appeals court Wednesday not to consider tougher sanctions sought by Massachusetts.

Fresh from settling its antitrust claims with West Virginia earlier in the week, Microsoft noted in court papers that only Massachusetts was still fighting the case. It accused that state's attorney general, Tom Reilly, of seeking sanctions "that would benefit certain of Microsoft's competitor's but not consumers."

Massachusetts had argued previously that the government's antitrust settlement was profoundly flawed and "does not fulfill even the most basic mission of stopping all of the practices" committed by Microsoft.

SEC supports most of mutual-fund bill

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said Wednesday it supported most provisions of a House bill that would require mutual funds to reveal more about their costs and to appoint more independent directors to their boards.

U.S. Rep. Richard Baker, R-La. and the House Financial Services subcommittee chairman, is the author of the mutual-fund bill. He says it's needed to help restore investor confidence after three years of stock market declines and corporate scandals at Enron Corp. and other companies.

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