Business Briefs
Reported by Star-Bulletin staff & wire




Verizon Wireless to cut 65 isle jobs

Verizon Wireless will close its Honolulu call center, effective Jan. 31.

About 65 jobs will be eliminated in the cost-cutting and consolidation move, said company spokesman Andrew Colley. Honolulu employees will be offered the choice of relocation to another Verizon Wireless location, outplacement services or a severance package.

Beginning Feb. 1, calls from Hawaii will be routed through existing Verizon Wireless call centers in California and Arizona, he said.

Colley said the two call centers already handle some Hawaii customer calls.

"These call centers have already been responding to overflow and after hours calls from Hawaii customers, he said.

Verizon acquired the call center when it purchased GTE in 2000.

Processing firm now MDX Hawaii

Queen's Health Management, the medical claims processing firm purchased last year by California-headquartered Medical Data Exchange Corp., will change its name to MDX Hawaii.

The company retained 19 former Queen's Health Management employees and will continue to operate out of its current Restaurant Row office. MDX Hawaii offers an array of services, including medical management, claims processing and customer service to approximately 25,000 members covered through local and national health plans. It will also continue to process temporary disability insurance claims for five clients.


Kmart exec denies closure list

NEW YORK >> A top Kmart executive yesterday denied reports that the bankrupt company has compiled a list of 567 stores to be closed after the holiday season.

"I wish I had it," Chief Restructuring Officer Ron Hutchison said of the rumored list.

The Atlanta Business Chronicle said last week it obtained the list from unnamed sources.

"We do not have a list of stores scheduled to be closed," Hutchison said. "There's been no presentation to me or senior management about any stores to be closed at this time."

The Troy, Mich., retailer closed 283 stores in April following a Jan. 22 Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing. It expects to announce a second round of store closings after the holiday season, Hutchison said. But the total number of closings will only be a "fraction" of the number reported by several business newspapers last week, he said.

(Pacific Business News, citing the list of its sister paper, said Kmart stores atIwilei and Waikele face potential closure.)

Ford recalling 572,795 Focus cars

DETROIT >> Ford Motor Co. said yesterday that it was recalling about 572,795 of its compact Focus vehicles from the 2000 and 2001 model years in North America because of potential safety problems including engine fires.

The Focus has suffered a string of quality problems since its introduction in 1999 and Ford, which is implementing a wrenching turnaround plan after losing $5.45 billion last year, has now issued 11 safety recalls for the vehicle.

Dollar falls against euro and yen

New York >> The dollar fell to a 3 1/2- month low against the euro on concern the world's biggest economy will slow even after an expected Federal Reserve interest-rate cut tomorrow.

The dollar also fell for a ninth day in 10 against the yen. The dollar weakened for a fifth day against the euro, sliding to 99.94 cents per euro in New York from 99.81 yesterday. It reached $1.0042 earlier today, the weakest level since July 26. The dollar fell to ¥121.82 from ¥122.19.

5 travel agencies sue to shut down Orbitz

LOS ANGELES >> Five California travel agencies are seeking class action status for their lawsuit claiming that the online travel site Orbitz stifles competition.

The agencies have sued Orbitz and three of the major airlines that own the site, arguing that airlines have cut their commissions to travel agents and steered consumers to cheap fares that are only available on the airlines' own Web sites.

The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles earlier this year, asks for commissions that would have been paid to travel agents over the past four years if airlines hadn't steered fliers to lower Web-based fares.

The action also seeks to have Orbitz dissolved.

Akamai can't block Digital Island product

BOSTON >> Cable & Wireless Plc can continue selling a product that speeds data transmission to Internet users, a federal judge ruled, rejecting a bid by rival Akamai Technologies Inc. to halt the sales.

Bloomberg News reported Akamai claimed Cable & Wireless's Digital Island was in contempt of U.S. District Judge Rya Zobel's order to stop selling a product that infringes an Akamai patent. Zobel disagreed and on Friday said Digital Island made changes to Footprint 2.0 to differentiate it from the version that prompted the legal fight.

The ruling by the federal judge in Boston is the latest in more than two years of battles over patents between Akamai and Digital Island, which Cable & Wireless bought in 2001. (Digital Island was founded in Hawaii before moving to California.)

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