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BUSINESS IN BRIEF

Calpers President Voted Out

Thursday, December 2, 2004; Page E02

Sean Harrigan was ousted from his post as president of the $177 billion California Public Employees' Retirement System. In a 3 to 2 vote in San Francisco, the California state Personnel Board pulled Harrigan from Calpers, where he had served for five years. Elected as Calpers board president in February 2003, Harrigan is a longtime union official and an advocate for corporate governance reform. He persuaded institutional investors to withhold votes for Walt Disney's Michael D. Eisner as board chairman, and he led a drive to withhold votes for Safeway chief executive Steven A. Burd while the union was on strike against the company. Ron Alvarado will succeed Harrigan beginning Jan. 1, a board spokeswoman said.

Chinese Firm Admits Huge Trading Loss

China Aviation Oil, which accounts for almost all of China's jet fuel imports, said it had lost nearly $550 million on derivative trades and was seeking protection from creditors. The Singapore-based group's parent company in mainland China has extended a $100 million emergency loan, suspended the unit's chief executive and dispatched a team of investigators, a spokesman said. The scandal could be the biggest case of losses from speculative trading in Singapore since trader Nick Leeson totaled more than $1 billion in losses that eventually led to the collapse of Britain's Barings Bank in 1995.


United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan marked World AIDS Day by urging Wall Street firms to do more to help fight the global epidemic. "The financial sector represents one of the most powerful forces in the world, but it has yet to be fully utilized in this fight," Annan told financial services representatives at a New York event attended by Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, also at podium, president of the Global Business Coalition. Six companies agreed to form a working group that will recruit other Wall Street partners and develop programs to address AIDS. (Diane Bondareff -- Bloomberg News)

MORE NEWS

Former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani is launching an investment banking firm. Giuliani, also a former federal prosecutor who was known for cracking down on insider trading, said the new Giuliani Capital Advisors will offer companies guidance on major deals such as mergers and acquisitions. His private consulting firm, Giuliani Partners, will buy the U.S. investment banking arm of Ernst & Young as part of the deal. Terms were not disclosed.

Another 229 Delta Air Lines pilots retired in time to lock in higher pensions, which are based on salary, before a 32.5 percent pay cut went into effect yesterday, bringing the year's total above 900, union officials said. The retiring pilots also have the option of taking half their pension payments in a lump sum, ensuring they receive some benefits even if the carrier files for bankruptcy protection.

The Securities and Exchange Commission suspended trading in shares of 26 small companies because they did not file required financial reports. The list includes DrKoop.Com, which operates a Web site named after former U.S. surgeon general C. Everett Koop. DrKoop.Com was sold in bankruptcy court for $186,000 to vitamin retailer Vitacost in 2002.

Minnesota smokers can sue Philip Morris USA as a group over claims they were misled about the health risks of Marlboro Lights, a judge there ruled. The judge said a class-action lawsuit is appropriate because smokers claimed economic, not personal, injuries. The company will appeal the ruling, a spokesman said. If the decision is upheld, Philip Morris may face a single trial involving billions of dollars in claims.

ESPN will launch a wireless phone service next year. The service is to be the first in a series of branded cell phone services planned by Walt Disney Co., which owns ESPN. The service, to be called ESPN Mobile, will use the Sprint nationwide PCS network.

AARP is partnering with Home Depot to give a seal of approval to certain products carried by the home improvement chain. AARP will give the seal to goods it considers particularly safe or suitable for older people, who represent a growing market with disposable income.

Motorola fell to the No. 3 spot in world cell phone sales for the third quarter, according to research firm Gartner. Five years ago, Motorola fell to No. 2 behind Nokia, and now it has slipped just slightly behind Samsung Electronics. According to Gartner's third-quarter figures, Nokia has 30.9 percent of world market share while Samsung has 13.8 percent and Motorola 13.4 percent. Motorola could surpass Samsung for full-year sales.

SBC Communications said the October acquisition of AT&T Wireless Services will boost earnings excluding accounting costs in 2006, a year earlier than previously forecast. Net income in 2007 also will get a bigger lift from the addition of AT&T Wireless, bought for $41.3 billion by Cingular Wireless, which is 60 percent owned by SBC.

Walt Disney Co. elected Fred H. Langhammer as a director. Langhammer, 60, is chairman of global affairs at cosmetics maker Estee Lauder. He is to join the Disney board in January. Separately, the board raised Disney's annual cash dividend by 14 percent.

Chubb has been subpoenaed by the Securities and Exchange Commission in a fact-finding inquiry regarding loss-mitigation insurance products. According to a SEC filing, the subpoena is similar to one Chubb received from New York Attorney General Eliot L. Spitzer.

RECALLS

Toyota is recalling 92,577 Celicas from the 2000 and 2001 model years because their daytime running lights are too bright and could be a hazard to oncoming drivers, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said. Dealers will repair the vehicles for free beginning in March. General Motors will recall 1,378 of its new Chevrolet Cobalt coupes because a headlight bulb shield may loosen or break, NHTSA said. Dealers will install new shields for free.

INTERNATIONAL

A coalition of U.S. retailers filed a lawsuit to block the Commerce Department from limiting Chinese textile and clothing imports. Quotas on textile trade are set to expire at the end of the year, ending a system that limited trade in 2,400 items, including cotton shirts and denim. The expiration is pitting U.S. textile makers, who fear more competition from China, against retailers, who want access to cheaper fabrics.

International Business Machines said it signed a pair of outsourcing contracts worth more than $1 billion with Danish companies Danske Bank Group and shipping giant A.P. Moller-Maersk Group, continuing the computer giant's push into northern Europe.

A global anti-tobacco accord will take effect in February after being ratified by Peru, the 40th and final country needed to implement the treaty that limits advertising and requires that tough, new warning labels be put on packs of cigarettes. The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control aims to cut the number of deaths from tobacco-related illness. A total of 128 other countries, including the United States, have signed the treaty but not yet ratified it.

EARNINGS

Neiman Marcus Group, an operator of upscale department stores, said first-quarter earnings rose on demand for designer handbags and lizard-skin shoes. Profit for the quarter ended Oct. 30 was $64.1 million, compared with $56.2 million in the comparable period a year ago. Sales were $907.9 million, up from $818.8 million.

Dollar General said third-quarter profit dropped nearly 9 percent on higher gas prices and reduced spending by its core, low-income customers. For the quarter ended Oct. 29, the discount retailer had earnings of $71.1 million, compared with $77.9 million in the same period a year ago. Sales rose 11.5 percent, to $1.88 billion from $1.69 billion.

Compiled from reports by the Associated Press, Bloomberg News, Dow Jones News Service and Washington Post staff writers.


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