Comsat postponed a meeting scheduled for next week at which shareholders were to vote on the satellite maker's proposed acquisition by Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin, signaling that Lockheed's recent financial difficulties could raise fresh obstacles for the deal. Comsat, also based in Bethesda, said it would hold off on the meeting until mid-August, closer to when regulatory and legislative approvals for the transaction are expected.
The FBI tried to trace the source of a file-destroying software bug that has hit tens of thousands of computers, while software firms posted new virus-killing programs on their Web sites. The Worm.Explore.Zip bug disguises itself as a friendly piece of e-mail, similar to the recent Melissa virus, which infected hundreds of thousands of machines. Computer security experts were still trying to assess the extent of the outbreak.
U.S. steel producers got a boost as the International Trade Commission cleared the way to effectively ban sales of a widely used type of steel from Japan, concluding that imports of these low-priced commodities have injured the domestic industry. With the finding, the Commerce Department can now impose duties on imports of hot-rolled sheet steel from Japan to bring the goods up to "fair" market prices. However, the effect of the anti-dumping duties, which will range from 17.9 percent to 67.1 percent, will be to price this steel out of the market.
Iridium World Communications, which runs the first global satellite-telephone network, saw its shares fall 17 percent on concern the cash-strapped company is closing in on bankruptcy because it hasn't sold enough phones. Iridium shares fell $1.18 3/4 to $6 after trading as low as $5.81 1/4, the lowest price since the Washington-based company first sold stock to the public two years ago. Iridium traded at a record $72.18 3/4 in May 1998. Iridium spokeswoman Michelle Lyle dismissed talk of a bankruptcy as "speculation."
Phone.com, which provides software that lets wireless telephone companies bring the Internet to their customers, more than doubled in trading after its IPO. The Redwood City, Calif.-based company rose $24.12 1/2 to $40.12 1/2 as about 8.2 million shares traded on the Nasdaq Stock Market. The company ended the day with a market value of $1.22 billion.
Eastman Chemical, the world's biggest maker of plastics used in soda bottles, agreed to buy Chevron Chemical's polymer product lines used in food packaging and medical products. Financial terms weren't disclosed. The agreement, which is still being negotiated, includes technology, patents and trademarks, the companies said. No manufacturing assets will be transferred.
Dana, the world's biggest maker of light-truck axles, plans to sell an industrial products group and part of its electric-motor business as it focuses on automotive engines and drive-train systems. The units being sold make parts for copiers, vacuums and other equipment. The groups have 3,000 employees worldwide and 1998 combined sales of about $360 million.
Crescent Real Estate Equities announced the resignation of its president and chief executive, Gerald Haddock, who led the Fort Worth company into ill-timed investments and financings that sent its stock tumbling last year. Vice Chairman John Goff, a co-founder and the chief executive before Haddock came on in December 1996, will assume the vacant posts. Goff said Haddock resigned on his own and wasn't pushed out because of the company's troubles.
Toys R Us plans to launch its biggest customer service overhaul ever on Sunday. The initiative, designed with the help of Walt Disney Co., is intended to rally the company's 52,000 U.S. employees to improve how they treat customers.
Ontario Foods is recalling about 12,500 cases of diet drink mixes, iced-tea mixes and sugar replacements in nine states, including Maryland, because the products may contain pieces of aluminum metal, the Food and Drug Administration said. Last week, the FDA determined the metal could cause at least a "temporary health problem" to consumers and asked the manufacturer to conduct a Class 2 recall, which allows the product to be removed from store shelves without requiring public notification. The recall is posted on the FDA's Web site, www.fda.gov.
Argentina's economy shrank 3 percent in the first quarter as the country plunged into its first recession since 1996. The contraction was greater than economists expected, which could mean Argentina will face higher borrowing costs as the country tries to raise another $6.3 billion abroad this year.