Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee voiced concerns that the pending $129 billion merger of MCI WorldCom and Sprint would eliminate a major competitor from the long-distance telephone market. "Antitrust principles teach us all to be highly suspicious of a merger which reduces rivals in an industry from three to two," said Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), adding that such combinations "raise the dangerous possibilities of collusion . . . and reduction in quality of service." But MCI WorldCom chief executive Bernard J. Ebbers testified that the merger would be "the single best hope for a strong and effective alternative to the mega-Bells and the emerging AT&T cable monopoly."
Network Solutions will keep its central database of the Internet's domain names and provide $2.25 million in funding for the cash-strapped Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers under agreements approved yesterday that will introduce competition into a field that had been a Network Solutions monopoly. The agreements, which involve the Department of Commerce, also allow the Herndon-based company to charge competitors $6 for each domain name they register beginning Jan. 15.
Just for Feet, the world's second-largest athletic-shoe retailer, filed for bankruptcy protection from its creditors after failing to make its November interest payment on $200 million in bonds. Alabama-based Just for Feet listed $764.2 million in assets and $507.2 million in liabilities in its Chapter 11 petition.
The Communications Workers of America reached a tentative agreement with US Airways on a new five-year labor contract covering 10,400 newly organized passenger service agents. The contract guarantees the passenger agents pay parity with the highest-paid service agents in the industry. Top pay would be $20.90 an hour next June and should reach $22 an hour by the end of the contract, according to the union. The contract still requires the ratification of the union membership.
JDS Uniphase, the world's biggest maker of fiber-optic equipment parts, agreed to buy one of its suppliers, Optical Coating Laboratory, for about $2.82 billion in stock to help it meet demand for gear that runs telecommunications networks.
Avon Products appointed its first female chief executive. Andrea Jung, 41, currently president and chief operating officer, will succeed Charles R. Perrin, 54, who has been chief executive for two years and chairman for the last six months. An Avon spokesman said Perrin will pursue philanthropic endeavors.
The European Central Bank raised interest rates--the first increase since January's introduction of the euro--in an effort to keep inflation from accelerating as economic growth revives. The ECB raised its benchmark refinancing rate to 3 percent, from 2.5 percent, as expected. The Bank of England also increased its benchmark rate, by a quarter point, to 5.5 percent.
Fruit of the Loom, one of the largest makers of underwear and T-shirts, said it will discontinue about 1,000 items from its product lines and consider closing some plants in an effort to return to profitability. The Chicago company also reported that it had a third-quarter loss of $166.4 million, compared with a profit of $50.4 million a year earlier.
Managed health care company Humana said third-quarter earnings fell 59 percent, to $22 million. The results do not reflect one-time charges of $84 million in the year-ago quarter due to the costs of exiting some markets and discontinuing some of its services.
Keebler Foods said its third-quarter profit rose 11 percent, to $32.1 million, on sales of recently introduced cookies and crackers, as well as lower costs.
Computer Learning Centers of Fairfax said it will be looking at various alternatives to "maximize shareholder value," including the possible sale of the company. The $140 million, 2,000-employee training company has retained U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray, an investment-banking firm, to investigate options to help the company regain financial strength.
US Airways of Arlington reached a tentative contract with more than 10,000 passenger service agents represented by the Communications Workers of America. The five-year agreement announced by the company and the union includes a parity pay increase, job-security provisions and retirement improvements. The company is still in talks with the union representing 9,000 flight attendants.
Costar Group, a Bethesda company that provides commercial real estate leasing data, agreed to buy another real estate information firm, Comps.com of San Diego, for $102 million in cash and stock. That works out to $7.50 for each share of Comps.com stock, which closed unchanged yesterday at $7.28 1/8. Costar stock closed at $24.25, up 62 1/2 cents. Comps.com's main business is providing data on building sales, but it had started to branch out into the leasing arena that Costar dominates nationally.