Executive Business Briefing

Oct. 18, 2001 at 7:29 AM
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Here is a look at Thursday's top business stories:

Stocks decline in Asia

TOKYO, Oct. 18 (UPI) -- Stock prices on the Tokyo Stock Exchange ended lower in moderate trading Thursday as investors locked in profits, particularly in the recently rising technology sector, following a weak performance Wednesday on Wall Street.

Stocks also lost ground in Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan and Sydney.

Japan's blue-chip Nikkei Average of 225 selective issues, which rose 117.63 points Wednesday, fell 280.60 points, or 2.60 percent, to 10,474.85. The broader Topix index fell 19.12 points, or 1.80 percent, to 1,068.48.

Volume improved to an estimated 703.73 million shares from 699.83 million shares changing hands Wednesday.

Declines outpaced advances 1,085 to 261, while another 120 stocks settled unchanged.

Analysts said stocks moved lower on selling led by technology issues after Wall Street dropped Wednesday amid a disappointing assessment of the U.S. economy and news that anthrax was found on Capitol Hill.

The Nikkei index fell below the 10,500 level in thin trading, but selling at the lower end of range was limited due to an improving market outlook, traders said.

In trading, technology stocks ended lower, but Fujitsu was an exception. At one point the issue was up 3 percent, but fell back to close unchanged after the company said it and IBM were in talks on possible cooperation in a wide range of businesses including hardware and software operations.

Among some of the other technology issues, Sony Corp. fell 2.4 percent, NEC Corp. lost 2.2 percent, Hitachi lost 4.8 percent and Toshiba fell 1.4 percent.

Microchip issues also ended lower. Kyocera declined 3.7 percent, Advantest fell 6.1 percent and Tokyo Electron sank 9.1 percent.

Despite falls in many blue chips, auto makers ended mixed. Mazda rose 5.8 percent, Honda eased 0.9 percent, Toyota slipped 0.3 percent and Nissan rose 2.8 percent.

Elsewhere in Asia, prices also ended lower in moderate trading on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. The blue-chip Hang Seng Index sank 380.20 points, or 3.70 percent, to 9,880.61 -- its lowest close since September 27.

Analysts said broad-based issues suffered from selling on fears that biological attacks in the U.S. will further dampen consumer confidence.

In trading, China Mobile fell 6.8 percent, China Unicom dropped 5.7 percent, Hutchison Whampoa lost 3.8 percent and Pacific Century CyberWorks lost 1,2 percent.

Meanwhile, prices ended slightly lower on the South Korean Stock Exchange, pressured by weakness in technology and telecom issues. The Kospi Composite Index slipped 4.08 points, or 0.77 percent, to 524.21.

In trading, Samsung Electronics, the world's top maker of computer memory chips, eased 0.6 percent and state-run Korea Telecom lost 3.1 percent.

Prices also ended slightly lower on the Taiwan Stock Exchange as export oriented technology shares came under pressure on ongoing pessimism over a recovery in the sector. The Weighted Index slipped 5.93 points, or 0.16 percent, to 3,811.20.

Hon Hai Precision Industries sank 3.6 percent while Compal Electronics lost 2.8 percent.

Elsewhere around the region, prices ended lower in moderate trading on the Australian Stock Exchange. The blue-chip All Ordinaries Index fell 35.90 points, or 1.13 percent, to 3,134.10, pressured by profit-taking in the natural resources sector as BHP Billiton lost 1.2 percent.

Earnings climb at Smith International

HOUSTON, Oct. 18 (UPI) -- Smith International Inc., a supplier to the oil and gas drilling industry, said its third quarter net income more than doubled, lifted by a more than 30 percent rise in drilling activity in the United States.

The company said its net income jumped to $42.1 million, or 84 cents a share, from $20.5 million, or 41 cents a share during the same period last year.

Analysts on Wall Street had expected the company to post a net income of 81 cents a share, according to Thomson Financial/First Call.

Revenues for the quarter climbed 27 percent to $909.7 million.

The company said the majority of the revenue improvement related to increased natural gas-directed drilling activity in the United States, which grew over 30 percent between the comparable periods.

The improvement over the prior year quarter was also attributable to incremental revenues from acquisitions as well as increased customer spending in markets outside the United States, primarily the North Sea, the Commonwealth of Independent States and Latin America.

After excluding the effect of acquired and divested operations, oilfield segment revenues were 23 percent above the amount reported in the prior year quarter and compared to a 15 percent increase in drilling activity period-to-period.

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Doug Rock said, "Smith reported record revenues and earnings in the third quarter. The significant cash flow has enabled us to complete ten acquisitions and repurchase more than half a million of our shares since the beginning of July, without an appreciable increase in our leverage.

"Although U.S. gas drilling activity has fallen 12 percent since the end of the second quarter, we continue to believe the medium to longer-term fundamentals for the North American natural gas market remain very strong. The U.S. gas drilling decline has had little impact on our U.S. revenues to date; however, further significant drilling reductions, if they were to occur, could effect Smith's future results," Rock added.

Earnings decline at Tyco International

PEMBROKE, Bermuda, Oct. 18 (UPI) -- Tyco International Ltd., a diversified manufacturing and service company, said its fourth quarter net income for the period ended Sept. 30 fell 28 percent to $1.38 billion, or 70 cents a share, from $1.91 billion, or $1.12 a share during the same period last year.

Excluding non-recurring items, including those for cost reduction initiatives and acquisitions, earnings were $1.68 billion, or 86 cents a share, compared with last year's $1.1 billion, or 64 cents a share.

Sales rose 29 percent to $10.08 billion from $7.80 billion a year ago.

Analysts on Wall Street had expected the company to post a net income of 84 cents a share, according to Thomson Financial/First Call.

"Tyco's diversified mix of businesses once again showed that we can indeed continue to grow through both good and bad economic environments," said L. Dennis Kozlowski, chairman and chief executive officer.

"In this tough environment, I am pleased to report that our mix of businesses continues to perform very well. Included in our business mix are businesses such as Healthcare, Fire and Security, and Tyco Capital, which are less affected by economic conditions and can provide consistent results and outperform in difficult times. Additionally, strong cash flow generation throughout all of our businesses funds further investment in these businesses and provides the means to opportunistically expand them as circumstances allow," he said.

Kozlowski said, "We have taken immediate cost reduction actions in our Electronics business, which will allow us to continue to deliver strong earnings results despite weak end markets and will position us ahead of the curve in taking advantage of eventual economic recovery."

Looking ahead Tyco reiterated its earnings per share guidance for fiscal 2002 of $3.70, in a range of $3.50 to $3.90.

The company said the earnings range reflects uncertainty about the near-term outlook for the Electronics end markets.

"While we see likelihood of further weakness within these end markets, our incremental cost reduction actions are designed to allow us to achieve our earnings target," Kozlowski said.

The company added its guidance for the first quarter of fiscal 2002 remains at 72 cents a share.

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