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Executive Business Briefing

Jan. 28, 2002 at 7:38 AM   |   Comments

Here is a look at Monday's top business stories:


Stocks rise in Tokyo for third day

TOKYO, Jan. 28 (UPI) -- Stock prices on the Tokyo Stock Exchange ended marginally higher for the third consecutive session in moderate trading Monday, supported by positive news from a few blue chips.

Stocks eased in Hong Kong, but rose in Seoul, South Korea; and Taipei, Taiwan. Markets in Sydney, Australia, were closed Monday for the Australia Day holiday. Trading was to resume Tuesday.

Japan's blue-chip Nikkei Stock Average of 225 selective issues, which rose 70.09 points Friday, gained another 76.71 points, or 0.80 percent, to 10,220.85. The broader Topix index rose 11.20 points, or 1.10 percent, to 997.04, after rising above the key 1,000-mark for the first time in four sessions.

Advances swamped declines 855 to 483, while another 137 issues settled unchanged.

Volume declined to an estimated 730.00 million shares from 785.07 million shares changing hands Friday.

Institutional selling related to the unwinding of crossheld shares weighed on the market, while apparent buying by public pension-related funds lent support -- the same pattern as in recent days, experts said.

Analysts said stocks were supported by automaker Toyota and mobile giant NTT DoCoMo following investor-friendly announcements.

NTT DoCoMo jumped 7.3 percent after the company announced last Friday that it would carry out a 5-for-1 share split and list its shares in New York and London to boost liquidity and increase its investment opportunities. DoCoMo is the most heavily capitalized stock on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. DoCoMo's parent NTT rose 2.5 percent.

Meanwhile, Toyota Motor rose 1.9 percent after Japan's top automaker said that it would buy up to 45 million of its own shares by the end of March.

Among some of the other active issues, in a strong banking sector, UFJ Holdings jumped 3.3 percent and Mizuho Holdings rose 1.6 percent.

Meanwhile, Sony Corp. dropped 2.6 percent, McDonald's Japan lost 1.8 percent and Snow Brand Food sank 7.7 percent and its parent Snow Brand Milk Products dropped 5.4 percent.

Elsewhere in Asia, prices ended slightly lower on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange as investors remained sidelined, awaiting the outcome of a two-day meeting of the U.S. Federal Reserve, which is scheduled to begin Tuesday.

The blue-chip Hang Seng Index eased 5.50 points, or 0.05 percent, to 10,767.46 -- well off its best level of 10,891.59.

Gains in property stocks helped the Hang Seng Index rise more than 100 points to reach 10891 early in the session. However, selling of the major blue chips emerged for the third session in a row once the index broke the 10,800 level, and the Hang Seng surrendered its early gains.

In trading, HSBC Holdings slipped 0.30 percent, China Mobile eased 0.2 percent, New World Development rose 4.6 percent while Hang Lung Properties rose 3.1 percent.

Meanwhile, exporters ended higher amid rising hopes for a U.S. economic recovery. Garment and consumer goods trading group Li & Fung climbed 4.1 percent, while Johnson Electric Holdings, which exports heavily to the United States, gained 1.1 percent.

Prices on the Taiwan Stock Exchange ended at their highest level in nearly a year, buoyed by ample liquidity and hopes of improved relations with China.

The Weighted Price Index of the Taiwan Stock Exchange gained 56.69 points, or 0.95 percent, to 6,007.33 -- the first time since Feb. 16, 2001 it closed above the 6,000-level.

Advances outpaced declines 452 to 156, while another 84 issues settled unchanged.

Analysts said the market is still digesting an apparent gesture of reconciliation from Chinese Vice Premier Qian Qichen last week. Qian said that China welcomes members of Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party to visit the mainland in appropriate capacities.

So far the Taiwan government has cautiously welcomed the remarks.

Among some of the active issues, Formosa Plastics Corp. rallied the daily trading limit of 7 percent. China is a major market for the company. Winbond Electronics jumped 6.9 percent, helped by expectations for a recovery in the sector. Powerchip Semiconductor jumped 6.1 percent.

Elsewhere around the region, prices on the South Korean Stock Exchange rose to their highest level in 18 months.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index, or Kospi, gained 5.56 points, or 0.72 percent, to 780.24 -- its highest close in about 18 months.

A market focus was Hynix Semiconductor, which had been in alliance talks with Micron Technology. The world's third-and second-ranked memory chipmakers failed to reach agreement in the latest round of their tie-up talks. Hynix rose 0.4 percent.

Meanwhile, Samsung Electronics dropped 1.4 percent.


Losses narrow at Xerox

STAMFORD, Conn., Jan. 28 (UPI) -- Office equipment maker Xerox Corp. said it posted a narrow fourth quarter loss as cost-cutting efforts begin to show results.

The company said it posted a fourth quarter net loss of $4 million, or 1 cent a share, compared with a loss of $20 million, or 4 cents a share during the same period a year earlier.

Excluding restructuring charges, effects of unhedged currency and a loss from the Argentina devaluation, the copier maker recorded a profit of 15 cents a share.

Analysts on Wall Street had expected the company to post a net loss of 1 cent a share, according to Thomson Financial/First Call.

Revenue fell 13 percent to $4.26 billion.

Xerox said gross margin increased 3.2 percentage points, inventories decreased 30 percent and its cash position increased to $4.5 billion.

"Today's results are all about execution -- the precise execution of a turnaround strategy that has significantly strengthened Xerox's core operations while effectively positioning the company to exploit future market opportunities in its production, office and services businesses," said Anne M. Mulcahy, chairman and chief executive officer.

"With the clear objective of creating a leaner, faster, and more flexible enterprise, we made the difficult but necessary decisions this past year to exit certain businesses, outsource some internal functions and dramatically reduce our cost base," Mulcahy said.

"The benefits of these actions resulted in the strong performance delivered in the fourth quarter including increased gross margins; lower selling, administrative and general expenses; reduction of inventory to historically low levels; and improved receivables. The outcome is a return to operational profitability, representative of the new Xerox that is emerging from our successful turnaround," Mulcahy added.

The company also said that it was comfortable with current expectations for the first quarter, and said it remains confident that it would return to full-year operational profitability.

Commenting on expectations for the first quarter, Mulcahy said, "The benefits of our turnaround actions along with additional cost reductions will continue to enhance our bottom line. This performance will be partially offset by seasonal first-quarter revenue declines."


Jenny Craig to be acquired

LA JOLLA, Calif., Jan. 28 (UPI) -- Jenny Craig Inc., one of the nation's largest weight management service companies, said it has entered into a definitive agreement to be acquired by ACI Capital Co., Inc., a private investment firm and DB Capital Partners, the private equity arm of Deutsche Bank.

Under terms of the deal ACI Capital and DB Capital Partners will acquire Jenny Craig for $5.30 a share, which represents a premium of approximately 68 percent to Jenny Craig's closing price of $3.15 a share last Friday.

Based on the $5.30 price a share, the deal is valued at approximately $115 million.

Completion of the transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, including approval by the stockholders of Jenny Craig, the securing of regulatory approvals and the receipt of financing.

The purchaser has received a senior debt financing commitment from Ableco Finance and commitments from ACI Capital and DB Capital to provide equity and debt capital.

The Craigs have also agreed to contribute a portion of their holdings of Jenny Craig stock with a value, based on the $5.30 a share merger price, of $4 million for stock in the acquisition vehicle.

In addition, the Craigs and certain of their affiliated entities have agreed to vote their current shareholdings in favor of the transaction.

The deal is expected to close in the second quarter of 2002.

"ACI Capital and DB Capital have long histories of backing management and investing in growing companies, and we are delighted to be entering into this agreement with them," said Sid Craig, who, with his wife, Jenny Craig, co-founded the company.

"This transaction is good news for our shareholders, clients and employees," he said.

Jenny Craig, which operates 652 centers, was founded in 1983.


Topics: Jenny Craig
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