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Reported by Star-Bulletin staff & wire

Thursday, January 29, 2004


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HAWAII

2 KB Toys stores to close in state

KB Toys Inc., the largest closely held U.S. toy retailer, gained U.S. Bankruptcy Court approval yesterday to start closing as many as 490 of its stores, including two in Hawaii.

The local stores affected are at Pearlridge center on Oahu and on Kauai at Kukui Grove Center. KB, based in Massachusetts, operates 1,231 stores nationwide.

The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Jan. 14, the latest casualty of increasing competition from discount chains. KB's rival, FAO Schwarz, sought Chapter 11 protection last month.

KB said it will terminate about 3,500 employees. It's not known how many of its Hawaii employees will be affected by the closure, or when the stores will close.

Isle economic freedom restrained

Hawaii ranks in the bottom fourth of the United States when it comes to economic freedom.

The listing, based on factors such as size of the tax burden, size of government and flexibility of the state's labor market, was released by the National Center for Policy Analysis and Canada's Fraser Institute.

"With few exceptions, economic freedom and prosperity go hand in hand," said NCPA Research Manager Devon Herrick. "States with low taxes and limited government tend to grow faster than states where the opposite is true."

Hawaii was listed as having a per capital gross domestic product loss of $1,477. The figure represents the estimated amount of economic activity per person that a state gains or loses compared with the average state based on its level of economic freedom.

Colorado, Delaware, South Dakota and Tennessee ranked in a tie as the most free states with a per capita GDP of $2,954. West Virginia brought up the rear with a loss of $4,431.

Water board awards contracts

The Honolulu Board of Water Supply has awarded nine construction contracts worth about $9.5 million to renovate pipelines and improve water service.

The improvements will help replace aging infrastructure, reduce area main breaks and upgrade fire protection, said Manager and Chief Engineer Clifford Jamile.

The three largest contracts went to Preferred Constructors Inc., $2.6 million, for work in Aiea; KD Construction Inc., $2.6 million, for work in Kalihi; and Koga Engineering & Construction Inc., $1.9 million, for work in Wahiawa.

Projects are already under way in Aiea, Kalihi, Pearl City, Punaluu and Wahiawa.

Details on KUMU/KAHA deal

Radio stations KUMU-AM 1500/FM 94.7 and KAHA-FM 105.9 are being purchased by Maui-based Visionary Related Entertainment Inc. for $5.25 million. Connecticut-based Maverick Media LLC had retained Kalil & Co. to shop the stations and broker the deal.

The asset purchase agreement was posted within the pages of the Federal Communications Commission Web site yesterday. It reveals the price and details not disclosed before the Star-Bulletin's Jan. 20 report on the sale.

A clause prohibits Visionary from controlling the stations' operations until the closing date, which is expected in 60 to 90 days. The clause appears to have been included because of Maverick's most recent experience in selling the stations to Georgia-based Real Radio of America Inc. in December 2002. That deal included a time brokerage agreement that allowed Real Radio to operate the stations last January, which began a tumultuous period for the stations and its employees. Maverick terminated both the time brokerage and sale agreements May 12.

Fairmont reports $13.5M loss

Fairmont Hotels & Resorts Inc., owner of the Fairmont Orchid and Kea Lani resorts in Hawaii, reported a fourth-quarter loss of $13.5 million because of the effects of severe acute respiratory syndrome in Canada and Hurricane Fabian.

CPF, CB Bancshares declare dividends

Central Pacific Financial Corp. and CB Bancshares Inc., the two combatants in a hostile merger attempt, both declared quarterly dividends yesterday.

Central Pacific Bank's parent, which is attempting to buy City Bank's parent, kept its dividend at 16 cents a share. It will be payable on March 19 to shareholders of record as of Feb. 20. Central Pacific has kept its dividend at 16 cents for five consecutive quarters.

The company also announced that starting with this payout it will declare its dividend in the first month of the calendar quarter to be payable in the third month of the calendar quarter, enabling shareholders to receive their dividends in the same quarter in which they are declared.

CB Bancshares maintained its dividend at 36 cents, marking the third straight quarter at that level. It will be payable on March 30 to shareholders of record on March 15.

ELSEWHERE

Telemarketers must identify themselves

Starting today, if you have Caller ID you'll know when a telemarketer is trying to reach you.

That's when Federal Trade Commission regulations kick in requiring telemarketing firms to identify themselves.

Such calls had shown up on Caller ID as "out of area." Now the name displayed by Caller ID must either be the company trying to make a sale or the firm making the call. The display must include a number that consumers can call during regular business hours and ask that the company no longer call them.

The change is part of the rules that set up the do-not-call registry, which consumers can use to block certain telemarketers from calling.

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