Here is a look at more of Friday's top business stories:
Payless to take a charge, close stores
TOPEKA, Kan., Jan. 25 (UPI) -- Payless ShoeSource Inc. said it will take a fiscal fourth quarter charge of $43 million for a restructuring plan designed to speed up decision-making, cut operating expenses and close 104 under-performing stores.
Payless, which operates 4,974 stores, said it expects to post earnings of 35 cents to 40 cents a share, excluding the $1.94 share charge, for the three months ending in January. Including the charge, Payless said it expects to post a loss of $1.54 to $1.59 a share.
The company said it still expects a full year profit of $3.86 to $3.91 a share, excluding charges. Including charges, it sees shares at $1.91 to $1.96, down sharply from $5.01 in the previous year.
Payless, which said it expects to open 75 to 80 stores this year, also backed its fourth quarter view that sales at stores open at least a year will be down in the mid single-digits.
The fourth quarter charge includes the closure of 104 stores, including 67 under the Parade name, and related costs from severance, lease terminations, asset write-offs and fees for services for developing the restructuring plan, Payless said.
The company also said it expects to benefit by $25 million to $30 million from the restructuring actions.
Auto production declines
SOUTHFIELD, Mich., Jan. 25 (UPI) -- Ward's Automotive Reports said vehicle production this week in the United States, Canada and Mexico is expected to decline to an estimated 299,856 units from the 328,874 cars and trucks built last week.
Ward's said including this week's estimates, calendar year North American output now totals 1,092,468 vehicles, up 3.3 percent from the same period a year ago.
In the U.S., automakers are expected to produce 214,776 vehicles this week, down 11.3 percent from the 242,184 cars and trucks built last week. To date, calendar 2002 U.S. vehicle output totals an estimated 799,159 units, up 8.0 percent from the 740,231 vehicles built during the same period a year earlier.
This week's Canadian vehicle production is estimated at 48,580, a 7.4 percent decrease from the 52,483 units assembled last week. Estimated calendar-year 2002 Canadian vehicle production now stands at 172,036 units, down 9.7 percent compared to the 190,435 vehicles produced during the same period a year ago.
Of the cars and trucks slated for production this week in the U.S., General Motors accounted for 31.5 percent, Ford Motor 29 percent, Chrysler of DaimlerChrysler 13.7 percent, while other manufacturers accounted for the remainder.
Alaska Air posts loss
SEATTLE, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- Alaska Air Group said its fourth quarter net loss widened to $36.4 million, or $1.37 a share, from $28.9 million, or $1.09 a share during the same period a year earlier.
The parent of Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air said the loss was after receiving more than $50 million in government aid.
The results included $52.3 million in government aid and a $10.2 million charge from the retirement of Horizon Air's F-28 fleet. Excluding those items, the loss was $62.9 million, or $2.37 a share.
Analysts on Wall Street had expected the airline to post a loss of $2.21 a share, according to Thomson Financial/First Call.
Revenue fell to $532.4 million from $462.2 million a year ago earlier.
"The entire airline industry has been struggling in the wake of September 11, but fortunately we've been much less impacted here on the West Coast," said Chairman and Chief Executive John Kelly.
"Of course, it's always disappointing to produce negative results, but relative to the industry, we certainly can't complain," he added.
CNA Financial expects to post loss
CHICAGO, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- Insurance company CNA Financial Corp. forecast a fourth quarter net loss compared with a net profit a year earlier.
The company said the projected loss was a result of charges for restructuring and losses from its exposure to bankrupt energy firm Enron Corp.
CNA said it expects to post a fourth quarter net loss between $20 million and $35 million, compared with net income of $193 million in the year earlier period.
Its fourth quarter net operating loss, excluding investment gains, would be between $288 million and $303 million, compared with operating income of $114 million a year before.
Included in the quarterly net loss estimate are previously announced restructuring and related charges of $125 million after tax and $52 million after tax of Enron-related losses, after anticipated insurance recoveries.
CNA also said it took a $69 million after tax reserve strengthening charge in its primary commercial and marine operations in London.
CNA also forecast its net loss for the year would be $1.6 billion, compared with net income of $1.2 billion a year before.
Its net operating loss for the year, excluding investment gains, is expected to be $2.4 billion, compared with net operating income of $544 million in 2000.