Business Briefs
Reported by Star-Bulletin staff & wire

Friday, February 21, 2003




Media Council seeks FCC hearing

The Honolulu Community-Media Council has sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission seeking a local public hearing as part of the FCC media ownership review.

The council "was involved in supporting a successful campaign to ensure the perpetuation of two independent daily newspapers on Oahu for reasons that strongly correspond to arguments we now offer to uphold diversity in television broadcasting in our state," according to the letter.

The council's current concern is the ownership of KHON-TV and KGMB-TV by Indiana-based Emmis Communications Corp., under waivers of the federal rules being reviewed.

Copies of the correspondence were sent to Hawaii congressional delegates and other organizations monitoring the issue.

The only official hearing scheduled will be Thursday in Virginia.

Analysts shift Hawaii stock ratings

Bank of Hawaii Corp. and Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc. both were upgraded by analysts today while Boyd Gaming Corp. received a downgrade.

Analyst Brian Harvey of Fox-Pitt, Kelton Inc. raised his rating on Bank of Hawaii to "in line" from "underperform. The Honolulu-based bank now has three buys, two holds and three sells from the eight analysts who cover the company.

Hawaiian Electric was boosted to "equal-weight/neutral" from "underweight/negative" by analyst Daniel Ford of Lehman Brothers. HEI now has one buy, three holds and one sell among five analysts.

Meanwhile, Boyd Gaming, which operates charter flights from Hawaii to Las Vegas, was downgraded to "sector perform" from "sector outperform" from analyst William Schmitt of CIBC World Markets. Boyd has seven buys, four holds and two sells from 13 analysts.


Mortgage rates set new low

WASHINGTON >> Mortgage rates around the country fell this week, setting new lows that economists predicted would spell more good news for the housing industry.

The average interest rate on a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage dipped to 5.84 percent for this week, down from 5.86 percent last week, Freddie Mac reported yesterday in its latest nationwide survey of rates.

That rate was the lowest since the mortgage giant began tracking rates in 1971. Records that reach back earlier than Freddie Mac's indicate that rate is the lowest since the early 1960s.

Agilent to cut 4,000 jobs after loss

Palo Alto, Calif. >> Agilent Technologies Inc. will cut 4,000 jobs, or 11 percent of its staff, after the company had its biggest quarterly loss because of falling demand for computer-chip and telecommunications testing gear.

The company, which also makes devices that analyze drugs and chemicals, was spun off from Hewlett-Packard Co. in 1999. Its net loss was $369 million in the quarter ended Jan. 31.

Sports Authority, Gart to team up

NEW YORK >> In a move designed to battle the behemoth discounters, the nation's two largest sporting goods chains -- The Sports Authority Inc. and Gart Sports Co. -- have agreed to merge, creating a national retailing force with 385 stores in 45 states and annual sales of about $2.5 billion. The stock swap deal values each of the sporting goods retailers at more than $200 million.

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