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Business Briefs
Reported by Star-Bulletin staff & wire

Friday, January 17, 2003



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IN HAWAII

AT&T Wireless to add 14 jobs

AT&T Wireless Services Inc. is adding 14 positions to its 70-person customer service call center in Mililani, to accommodate growth in customers who use cell phones while traveling abroad, the company said.

A new division will answer international calls after a New Jersey counterpart closes for the night.

AT&T Wireless also has seven additional openings in customer care and receivables management, the firm said. AT&T bought the former Honolulu Cellular Telephone Co., Hawaii's oldest wireless phone business, in 1999.

ON THE MAINLAND

Trade deficit swells to $40.1 billion

WASHINGTON >> The U.S. trade deficit bulged to a record $40.1 billion in November, reflecting Americans' ravenous appetite for foreign-made goods, especially toys, TVs and clothes.

The Commerce Department reported today that the imbalance between what the United States sells abroad and what it imports swelled by 13.9 percent from the October deficit of $35.2 billion.

A second report, from the Federal Reserve, showed that the nation's industrial sector -- hardest hit by the 2001 recession -- stumbled in December, a victim of the uneven economic recovery.

Production at the nation's factories, mines and utilities dipped by 0.2 percent in December, more than erasing a 0.1 percent gain the previous month, the Federal Reserve reported.

IBM earnings drop 56 percent

NEW YORK >> Fourth-quarter profits fell 56 percent at IBM Corp., although the technology giant's $1.02 billion net income reported yesterday managed to beat expectations thanks to huge service contracts.

The profit, equal to 59 cents a share, compared to income of $2.33 billion, or $1.33, in the same period of 2001.

Factoring out discontinued operations -- such as the money-losing disk drive unit it sold to Hitachi -- IBM reported earnings per share of $1.34, beating the $1.30 performance expected by Wall Street analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call.

General Motors beats expectations

DETROIT >> Strong sales and cost-cutting efforts helped General Motors Corp. overcome falling vehicle prices and post fourth-quarter profits that handily beat year-earlier results, as well as Wall Street forecasts.

The world's largest automaker said yesterday it earned $1 billion, or $1.71 a share, for the October-December period compared with $255 million, or 60 cents a share, a year earlier.

Revenue climbed to $48.7 billion, the highest ever for the period, from $46 billion a year ago.

Delta loses $363 million in quarter

ATLANTA >> Delta Air Lines blamed poor economic conditions and lingering fallout from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as it reported a $363 million loss for the fourth quarter yesterday. The nation's third-largest airline also signaled that further cost-cutting was needed. The loss was equivalent to $2.98 per share, an improvement from last year's fourth quarter loss of $734 million, or $5.98 per share.

McDonald's CEO says it needs better food

CHICAGO >> McDonald's new chairman and CEO acknowledged yesterday what he said more and more customers have been telling the company: It needs better-tasting food and faster service.

In his first remarks since taking over the chain Jan. 1, chief executive Jim Cantalupo said McDonald's will pull back further on expansion and close an unidentified number of struggling restaurants. But he told analysts he remains committed to growth and doesn't see mass closings.

Lands' End purchase pays off for Sears

CHICAGO >> Initial success with sales of its Lands' End apparel helped boost Sears, Roebuck and Co. to a fourth-quarter profit despite problems in its credit-card unit that had Wall Street braced for a decline.

The results yesterday lifted Sears' stock 7 percent to its highest level since the credit trouble emerged in mid-October.

The retailer's net income rose 72 percent, although most of that was due to a one-time tax gain. Excluding non-comparable items, its income climbed a modest 1.8 percent from the previous year.

GE employees back after 2-day strike

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. >> Striking workers at General Electric Co. were back on the job yesterday following a two-day strike to protest higher out-of-pocket health care costs imposed by the corporate giant.

The strike involved almost 18,000 employees at 48 locations in 23 states, union officials said.



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