Business Briefs
Reported by Star-Bulletin staff & wire

Tuesday, May 28, 2002

Bonds for UH med center get an A+ rating

University of Hawaii bonds targeted at building the new medical center in Kakaako have won an underlying grade of A+ from Fitch Ratings. "A" category bond ratings denote high credit quality and a low expectation of credit risk.

Price negotiation for the $150 million in series 2002A university bonds is scheduled for June 12 with UBS PaineWebber Inc. as senior manager.

Fitch Ratings said in a press release that it expects the university will be successful in broadening its sources of external support.

"Such diversification may result from the efforts of the recently inaugurated system president and others to boost fundraising and enhance UH's profile. ... These efforts may provide UH operations with greater protection against volatility in state finances," said the rating service.

Fitch Ratings is one of three major international bond rating agencies. It also rates debt obligations of the state of Hawaii, the Hawaii airports system, the City and County of Honolulu, Maui County, Kauai County and the Hawaii Housing and Community Development Corp., among others.

Cendant to beat hotel rates found on Web sites

New York >> Cendant Corp., the world's largest franchiser of hotels, said it would beat discount room rates on travel Web sites, becoming the latest lodging company to make that offer to promote the use of its own Internet site.

New York-based Cendant, which franchises hotels including Howard Johnson and Ramada, said consumers who find a discount on its rooms on an outside Web site will be able to get an additional 10 percent off if they book through a Cendant Web site. The offer begins June 17, said Evy Apostolatos, a company spokeswoman.

Cendant follows Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. and Six Continents Plc in offering to beat rates found on sites such as and Expedia Inc.

China asks WTO to rule against U.S. steel tariffs

Geneva >> China, the world's largest steel producer, stepped up demands from trading partners on the United States to remove its steel tariffs by asking the World Trade Organization to rule them illegal.

China says the U.S. steel tariffs violate international trade law because there "was no serious injury or threat of serious injury being suffered by the relevant domestic industries," according to a copy of China's submission to the WTO obtained by Bloomberg News.

Consultations with the U.S. "failed to settle the dispute," the document says.

The United States is facing counter-tariffs on its own exports as well as challenges at the WTO.

The European Union has threatened to impose $348 million worth of tariffs on U.S. products from fruit to clothing. Japan may retaliate for the first time against its biggest market with $4.9 million of duties on U.S. steel. China says it's ready to strike back with an additional $94 million of duties on imports from the U.S.

Travelocity launches new ad campaign

Travelocity, one of the top online travel agencies, is introducing a $40 million advertising campaign this week designed to promote its travel planning and purchasing features and increase its declining market share.

According to PhocusWright, a consulting firm based in Sherman, Conn., Travelocity saw its share of online travel agency sales in the United States drop from a peak of 35 percent in 2000, when it bought Preview Travel, another online agency, to 24 percent in the first quarter of this year.

PhocusWright said the market share of Expedia, the online agency begun by Microsoft in 1996, grew to 33 percent in the first quarter of this year from 25 percent in 2000. Orbitz, an online agency started by five major U.S. airlines last June, doubled its share, to 16 percent in the first quarter from 8 percent last year.

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