Executive Business Briefing

Feb. 11, 2003 at 5:09 AM
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Here is a look at some of Tuesday's top business stories:

NYC funds seek review of 'terrorist' ties

NEW YORK, Feb. 11 (UPI) -- The pension fund manager for New York City's police and firefighters has filed shareholder resolutions to force General Electric and two other large U.S. companies to review commercial ties to what it calls "terrorist-sponsoring states," the Financial Times reports.

It says this action could prompt similar moves from state and local governments. The resolutions urge GE, Halliburton and ConocoPhillips to end operations in Iran and Syria.

According to the newspaper, GE and Halliburton, the oil services company formerly headed by Vice President Dick Cheney, have operations in Iran through foreign subsidiaries. Doing so allows them to skirt U.S. laws that bar direct dealings with terrorist-sponsoring states, it says. ConocoPhillips has also invested in Syria through a subsidiary in the United Kingdom.

"If we are trying to eradicate terrorism, we must ensure that companies in our portfolio are not using offshore subsidiaries to legally evade U.S. sanctions against terrorist-sponsoring states," New York City Comptroller William Thompson told the FT.

Terrorism-related shareholder initiatives are "a new risk" for U.S. companies. New York City's fire and police forces have more than $250 million invested in the three companies. All five of the city's pension funds have invested more than $1 billion.

Arizona Treasurer David Peterson is pushing through legislation to require state pension holdings to be reviewed for companies with links to terrorist-sponsoring states and four other states, including California, are weighing similar measures, it said.

Halliburton is trying to get the shareholder resolution removed before its May 21 annual general meeting. It told the FT that the Iran operations of its foreign subsidiaries were "very limited" and in compliance with U.S. law. "GE also said its operations were small and legal, and said it was discussing the resolution with the comptroller's office," while ConocoPhillips did not immediately return calls seeking comment from the newspaper.

Newspaper ad rebound could be short-lived

NEW YORK, Feb. 11 (UPI) -- Newspaper publishers saw ad revenues rise during the fourth quarter but uncertainties like a conflict in Iraq or a weak economy could cut that recovery short.

Newspaper companies' results were boosted in the fourth quarter on "dramatic contrasts with the comparable period in 2001, when advertising crumbled in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks," reports financial Web site Marketwatch.com. But, it adds: "Much the way terrorism marred that year's advertising climate, a war in Iraq likely would mark a sharp shift from what most recently was a glowing period for the newspaper industry."

Like TV networks, newspaper companies rely on advertising from multinational corporations like Coca-Cola, McDonald's and Walt Disney -- companies that reduce ad spending in times of global turmoil, says the site. Further, newspaper companies depend on classified ads, which have been weakened by a sluggish economy and lethargic job market.

The site says political ad spending might not be as reliable a source of income in the 2004 campaign as in past. "New campaign finance reform legislation to rein in 'soft money' spending is now in effect. If upheld by the courts, that kind of party could well be a thing of the past," it said.

Semiconductor 'law' valid for another decade

SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 11 (UPI) -- Moore's Law -- which states that the number of transistors on a semiconductor chip can be doubled every two years -- has been a basic principle of progress in electronics and computing since Intel co-founder Gordon Moore formulated the dictum in 1965.

For the same amount of time, people have predicted it would hit a wall, says tech news Web site C/NET. But Moore himself has told an industry conference that the law should be good for at least another 10 years -- although it will take work. "Another decade is probably straightforward," he told the International Solid-States Circuits Conference. "There is certainly no end to creativity."

The law has held so far, meaning chips and computers "have become simultaneously more powerful and less expensive. The number of transistors produced annually is now roughly equal to the number of letters and/or characters printed annually -- and they cost about the same to produce," the site reports.

In some markets, "you can get 50 million transistors for a buck these days," Moore said. In the late 1950s, some chips had 200 transistors; by 2005, Intel will produce chips with 1 billion transistors. Industry revenue has grown 800-fold since the late 1950s, C/NET said.

But further progress will be tough -- and slower. "Chips now require vast amounts of electricity, a growing portion of which is dissipated through leakage. Designers are going to have to add technologies such as strained silicon to their chips and to redesign transistors to control energy consumption," it said.

Cablevision might sell or close The Wiz stores

BETHPAGE, N.Y., Feb. 11 (UPI) -- Cable operator and programmer Cablevision Systems said after the stock market closed Monday that it might sell or close its remaining The Wiz electronic retail stores.

Financial Web site Marketwatch.com said the company shut 26 unprofitable The Wiz outlets last year, but 17 stores are still in business. The company said the business was "no longer a viable option" in a weak economy.

Shares of Cablevision rose 82 cents to $17.07 on Monday. But over the longer term, the shares haven't done well: they're down 59 percent since Feb. 11, 2002, when they closed at $41.15, it notes.

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