Norfolk Southern Corp. is based in Norfolk. An item in the Jan. 30 Business section gave an incorrect location for the company's headquarters. (Published 1/31/03)

Yields on two-year Treasury notes fell in yesterday's auction to the lowest level on record. The yield was 1.71 percent, down from 1.82 percent at the last auction on Dec. 23. It was the lowest rate since the government began selling two-year notes on a regular basis in 1972. The notes will carry a coupon interest rate of 15/8 percent with each $10,000 in face value selling for $9,983.40. A total of $27 billion in notes were sold out of bids totaling $39.9 billion.

FTC Alleges Kids' Privacy Violated

Two education survey companies sold marketers personal information about students as young as 10 after telling their teachers that the data would be shared only with colleges, the Federal Trade Commission alleged. To settle deceptive-advertising charges, Lynbrook, N.Y.-based Student Marketing Group and its Pittsburgh-based affiliate, Educational Research Center of America, agreed to not sell already-collected information to marketers and to destroy information about children younger than 13. In a joint statement, the two companies said they had not admitted any wrongdoing or legal violation.

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WorldCom said it may write off a "material" part of its $32 billion worth of property and equipment because reduced demand diminished the value of communications networks. That would be in addition to a previously discussed write-down of about $50 billion in goodwill -- the difference between an asset's purchase price and fair value -- and other intangibles. WorldCom had a net loss from continuing operations of $194 million in November, compared with $205 million in October. It had $2.2 billion in sales, down from $2.3 billion. The company reports monthly to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York.

Yahoo said it started a service that lets subscribers stream music over the Web. The company is starting the service after settling a lawsuit with Sony's music unit and signing a licensing agreement to play Sony's music on the Launch service. The new commercial-free version of Launch's Internet radio service will be offered for $3.99 a month or $35.99 a year, Yahoo said.

General Motors is boosting cash rebates on sport-utility vehicles such as the Chevrolet Tahoe and some vans. Discounts will increase $500 to $2,500 on nine Chevrolet, GMC and Oldsmobile SUV models and two van models until Feb. 28.

Rambus won a ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, as the court threw out a jury's finding that the computer memory-chip designer committed fraud while pursuing patents for high-speed chips that became an industry standard. The court also revived Rambus's patent-infringement claim against Infineon Technologies. The ruling may help Rambus fight a fraud complaint filed in June by the Federal Trade Commission.

Vivendi Universal and Microsoft are in talks over the sale of part of Vivendi's video game business, known for titles such as Diablo II and Warcraft, sources close to Vivendi said. Microsoft is among several companies interested in a full or partial stake in Vivendi Universal Games, according to the sources, who did not name the other potential bidders.

The telemarketing industry, as expected, challenged the Federal Trade Commission's plans to launch a national do-not-call list to curb unsolicited telemarketing calls. The Direct Marketing Association and the American Teleservices Association both filed suit, in different federal courts, saying the proposal violated First Amendment rights to advertise freely.

INTERNATIONAL

Britain plans to create a single regulator for auditing and accounting as it tries to improve scrutiny of company finances after the collapse of Enron and WorldCom. Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt also said the lead partners of audit firms will be rotated every five years to help avoid conflicts of interest.

Barry Callebaut, the world's largest supplier of bulk chocolate, said it temporarily closed its cocoa-processing factories in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, for security reasons. The Swiss company told workers to stay home as a precaution after riots in the city over the weekend.

LOCAL BUSINESS

US Airways is seeking two more months to file its reorganization plan in bankruptcy court and remains on track to emerge from Chapter 11 at the end of March. The carrier asked the bankruptcy court in Alexandria to extend the so-called "exclusivity period" to March 31, from Jan. 31.

Fannie Mae chief executive Franklin Raines said he will begin answering questions on the company Web site in mid-February to help investors better understand the company's financial situation. A name for the page on the Fanniemae.com Web site hasn't yet been decided.

EARNINGS

Altria Group, formerly known as Philip Morris Cos., said its fourth-quarter earnings fell 18 percent, to $1.77 billion, partly because of heavy promotional spending by its domestic tobacco division. Revenue at the food and tobacco conglomerate fell 5.6 percent, to $18.77 billion.

ConocoPhillips reported a fourth-quarter loss of $410 million, after a $1.2 billion charge stemming from the disposition of service stations and the consolidation of refining and marketing operations between Conoco and Phillips Petroleum, whose merger closed in August. The loss compared with a profit of $162 million a year ago.

Gateway, the struggling computer maker, posted a fourth-quarter loss of $72 million and said it received a notice from federal regulators requesting reasons it should not be charged as part of a previously disclosed investigation of its fiscal 2000 results. The fourth-quarter loss compared to a profit of $9.4 million a year earlier. The latest results include a loss of 3 cents a share from an ongoing dispute with America Online related to new computer buyers who also subscribed to the AOL service.

Hershey Foods earned $130.3 million in the last three months of 2002, compared with a loss of $45 million a year earlier, which included expense for slashing payroll and inventory.

Media General, the Richmond-based newspaper and TV company, said fourth-quarter net income totaled $21.6 million (93 cents a share), compared with $7.89 million (34 cents) a year earlier. Revenue for the quarter increased 9.5 percent, to $229.4 million. The company attributed the increase to gains in broadcasting and publishing revenue.

Norfolk Southern's earnings rose 12 percent in the fourth quarter, to $129 million (33 cents a share), from $115 million (30 cents) in the same period of 2001. Revenue rose 3 percent, to $1.6 billion. The Richmond railroad company said all of its lines of business except coal had increased revenue in the fourth quarter.

Tribune Co. said fourth-quarter profit jumped 87 percent, to $187 million, thanks to a resurgence in advertising spending and lower newsprint costs. The company, whose holdings include 12 daily newspapers, 24 television stations and the Chicago Cubs baseball team, said revenue rose 8 percent, to $1.43 billion.

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

Jim Ranson, DuPont's new business development manager, sports new Levi's Silvertab jeans and jacket with DuPont's Kevlar as he inspects spools of the fiber that will be woven into denim, at DuPont's factory in Richmond. Jeans with Kevlar, best known for its use in bullet-resistant vests, are more durable and one-third lighter than traditional denim jeans.