Business Briefs

Reported by Star-Bulletin staff & wire

Monday, September 20, 1999

Reed's BriteSmile opening in Honolulu

BriteSmile Inc., the Pennsylvania-based company which has former Hawaii Tourism Authority Chairman John Reed as its chief executive officer, is scheduled to open its first Honolulu teeth-whitening center today at 1601 Kapiolani Blvd.

Reed, who joined the company in June, was expected to be on hand for the formal opening, the company said. BriteSmile, a small but fast-growing company, has dentist-supervised centers in several states and Canada.

ResortQuest grows with Florida deal

ResortQuest International Inc., parent of Aston Hotels & Resorts in Hawaii and a string of vacation property management businesses across the country, said today it has expanded its presence in Florida.

The company said it will acquire Bluebill Companies, a vacation property management and brokerage company managing more than 1,300 managed properties along the southwest coast of Florida.

ResortQuest, based in Memphis, Tenn., said the acquisition will be one of its largest since it went public in May 1998, combining Aston and a dozen other businesses.

Since then it has acquired 18 other vacation property businesses.

Ford to take orders on Microsoft Web site

SAN FRANCISCO -- Ford Motor Co. and Microsoft Corp. plan to collaborate on a joint venture enabling the automaker to build cars based on orders taken online, the companies said today. Microsoft's CarPoint Web site will be able to sell cars directly to consumers and continue to send sales leads to dealers.

Using CarPoint, Ford can match a customer's order with cars in dealer lots, in distribution centers or even on the factory floor. This is not direct selling online, which is forbidden by franchise laws. Sales still would be finalized through franchised dealers, who would make the profit on the sale.

Of Mutual Concern

News for mutual fund investors


Warburg to penalize Japan fund hopping

NEW YORK -- Warburg Pincus will charge a redemption fee on its Japan Small Company Fund shares held for less then six months to discourage short-term trading as investors rush to capitalize on Japan's rebounding economy, the company said.

The fund ranks No. 2 among all 9,759 U.S. mutual funds tracked by Bloomberg Fund performance, returning 174.41 percent so far this year (201.53 percent over the last 52 weeks), higher than the 180 percent return of the Jasdaq index of over-the-counter Japanese stocks.

"The costs associated with frequent short-term trading can be an unfair burden on long-term investors," Gail Eisenkraft, head of U.S. retail mutual funds at Warburg, said in a statement. "This fee, which goes directly toward the fund's net asset value, will compensate our longer-term investors for any costs incurred by active trading."

The 1 percent fee, effective Nov. 17, will not apply to reinvested distributions or any shares purchased before Nov. 17. Most fund investors will not be subject to it, the release said.

Lipper prepares to launch new fund-ranking system

NEW YORK -- Lipper Inc. is launching a new mutual fund classification system that places funds into different categories based on actual portfolio holdings.

The Summit, N.J., fund tracker, which is a unit of Reuters Group Plc, unveiled its plans to overhaul its rankings of U.S. stock funds last December. The new fund classifications will reflect where the fund invests, how much flexibility the adviser uses and how aggressively the fund is managed, according to Lipper.

The new system has three main categories of diversified funds -- growth, core and value. The ranking system also breaks funds out by market capitalization. Those classifications include large-cap, mid-cap and small-cap and a new class of funds termed multicap stocks. Lipper also will introduce a "super group" category intended to track go-anywhere funds with broad investment mandates.

Another innovation that Lipper's new system will feature is the so-called "75 percent rule." The rule refers to those funds classified as large- mid- or small-cap, which must have at least 75 percent of their equity investments in stocks of the appropriate size. A number of prominent fund companies have signed on to the new classifications, including Putnam Investments, a unit of Marsh & McLennan Cos. In addition, Merrill Lynch & Co. will be using the new classifications for its brokerage network, Lipper said.

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