Business Briefs
Reported by Star-Bulletin staff & wire




NexTel Partners donated Web-enabled cell phones to Hawaii Pacific University students (clockwise from back left) Mohammed Islam, Mark Sakihara, Kim Lindberg, Froylan Fernandes, Anton Borgstrom and Kawika Pickford. The equipment was used for computer science class assignment to develop Web applications for mobile phones. One group developed software that allows cell phone users to search for items nationwide via mobile classified ads. Another group developed software that allows users to purchase images for their cell phones.


Act 221 creator to talk about tech tax credits

Former state Tax Director Ray Kamikawa will speak June 17 at University of Hawaii's downtown Outreach College about the controversial Act 221 tax credits that he created.

The speech is titled "Act 221: Après La Deluge -- its Origins, Provisions, Applicabilities and Current Expectations for its Interpretation and Enforcement."

Kamikawa is a partner in the Honolulu law firm Chun Kerr Dodd Beaman & Wong, and he has represented clients seeking to use the tax credits.

The talk at Pioneer Plaza is part of the ThinkTech Law Series created by ThinkTech Hawaii and the UH Outreach College/Pacific New Media. The cost is $20. To register, call 956-8400 with the reference number L06168.

Gas Co. purchase nearly complete

The Singapore investment firm that is paying $115 million in cash to buy The Gas Co. from Citizens Communications Co. hopes to close the purchase by July 31, pending regulatory approval.

The buyer, K-1 USA Ventures Inc., plans to offer jobs to all of the Gas Co.'s 300 Hawaii employees. The deal was announced in December.

Stamford, Conn.-based Citizens bought the Gas Co. for $100 million in 1997, and has invested more than $40 million in the company.

NetEnterprise to backup data

Honolulu data storage company NetEnterprise is launching tomorrow an automated Web-based data backup service that is aimed at serving small- to medium-sized businesses.

NetEnterprise is the exclusive distributor in Hawaii for Marina del Rey, Calif.,-based Storactive Inc., the maker of LiveBackup SSP. Prices for the service start at $7.95 a month. More information is available at

NetEnterprise, started in 1998, also designs and supports networks for businesses, and provides Internet access.

Bankoh picks up analyst

Bank of Hawaii Corp., which hit an all-time high of $34.92 yesterday, was rated "market perform" in new coverage by analyst Jacqueline Reeves of Boca Raton, Fla.-based Ryan Beck & Co. Reeves set a price target of $35.

Of the six analysts listed by Bloomberg News as covering the company, one rates the stock a "buy," three rate it a "hold" and two rate it a "sell." Reeves' "market perform" rating is the same as a "hold."

HUD offers education fair

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is sponsoring a series of community home-buying fairs on Oahu and Maui in conjunction with community non-profit and government housing organizations.

The purpose of the fairs is to promote home ownership by offering education and outreach programs, said Claudine Allen, an operations analyst with HUD.

"We are trying to make people more familiar with the home-buying process and help them learn about different programs and services available in the community to help them become home owners," Allen said.

During the three-hour sessions people can talk to lenders who will be offering mortgage pre-qualifications and free credit reports, Realtors who can offer information on purchasing a home; housing counselors involved with self-help housing programs; and representatives from the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. Attendees are encouraged to bring monthly gross income statements and expense information with them.

Fairs will take place from 9 a.m. to noon June 14 at Waimanalo District Park; June 21 at Waianae Mall; June 28 at Kapalama School; and July 12 at the Filipino Community Center in Waipahu. On Maui, a fair will be 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Paukukalo Community Center.


Chrysler's sales chief leaves

DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler unit, whose U.S. auto sales this year have fallen at almost twice the industry pace, said sales chief James Schroer is leaving and named U.K. executive Joe Eberhardt to replace him.

Schroer, 51, will "pursue a new career in a marketing intensive business," Auburn Hills, Mich.-based Chrysler said in a statement, without elaborating. Eberhardt, 39, will take over June 1 and has been chief executive of DaimlerChrysler's U.K. operations since 1999.

Under Schroer, who joined Chrysler in February 2001 from Ford Motor Co., the unit's sales slid 7.2 percent this year through April. The industrywide drop was 4 percent, according to Autodata Corp. Chrysler, the third-largest U.S. automaker, spent $3,494 per vehicle on incentives in April, second to General Motors, CNW Marketing Research has said.

"It was his decision to leave," said Chrysler spokesman Jan Zverina, without giving details. Schroer didn't return a call seeking comment.

Terrorism insurance rates lower, but still high

Rates for terrorism coverage in the United States have abated from post-Sept. 11 levels since the passage of a federal insurance backstop, particularly at some high-risk properties, according to Moody's Investor Services.

However, the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, or TRIA, hasn't encouraged the market to broadly offer terrorism insurance at what insurance buyers consider reasonable levels, according to a report released yesterday by the rating agency.

Moody's based its report on a survey conducted in late February and March of U.S. insurers representing more than 50 percent of premiums from commercial lines subject to TRIA.

Home Depot announces share buyback program

Home Depot Inc. yesterday said it plans to repurchase up to $500 million of stock, citing its "strong cash position and stellar financial condition."

The Atlanta-based home improvement company said it also plans to invest $4 billion in new stores, remodeling, technology and other initiatives during 2003. During the first quarter ended May 4, Home Depot opened 36 new stores, raising the total number of stores to 1,568.

Home Depot shares closed up 74 cents yesterday at $32.30.


Japan's unemployment stretches on

Japanese are spending more time in the unemployment line, because they find it more difficult to get a job that matches their needs, a government report showed today.

Of the nation's 3.6 million unemployed in the first quarter, about 65.3 percent spent more than three months unemployed, up from 63.7 percent a year earlier, according to the government statistics bureau's jobless report released in Tokyo.

"This clearly shows how difficult the job market is, and the mismatch between what workers and employers want out of a job," said Motomitsu Honma, an economist at the economic research division of Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management Co.

Japan's jobless rate has more than doubled since the country's first of three recessions in 1991, with construction firms and manufacturers cutting the most jobs. Those workers are finding it hard to rejoin the work force because the jobs on offer are in health services, telecommunications, or other areas unrelated to their previous work, Honma said.


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