The Justice Department sued Smithfield Foods, accusing it of breaking antitrust laws by failing to report buying stock in competitor IBP in a failed takeover attempt. Smithfield is the nation's largest hog producer and pork processor. IBP was the country's second-biggest pork packer and now is a subsidiary of Tyson Foods. The lawsuit seeks $5.4 million for what it claims was Smithfield's failure to file pre-merger federal notification documents with the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission before it bought the IBP stock. Smithfield lost a bidding war against Tyson for IBP. Smithfield said the federal lawsuit has no merit.
Heating-Oil Futures at Record High
Heating-oil contracts for March delivery rose 8.8 percent, to a record $1.2559 a gallon on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Supplies of heating oil in depots and terminals along the East Coast fell to 18.5 million barrels last week, the lowest since May 2001, the Energy Department reported. Five months of below-average temperatures have depleted inventories in the Northeast.
Microsoft agreed to let Chinese officials review the source code for its Windows operating systems, demonstrating the lengths it will go to in battling the free, modifiable Linux system for government business. Microsoft founder Bill Gates announced the deal in Beijing during a trip that sealed a number of contracts with major Chinese companies. China joins Russia, Britain and the United States in having the right to review the programming that underpins Windows XP and its predecessors.
The Emergency Steel Loan Guarantee Board rejected a $250 million loan guarantee package for Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel, the key to the company's plan for emerging from bankruptcy, saying it was unconvinced the company had the earning potential to repay the loan. The West Virginia company said it was surprised by the ruling. Wheeling-Pitt entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy, for the second time, in November 2000.
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Holdings was charged with fraud by Canadian police after a 41/2-year investigation into smuggling of tobacco products from the United States. Authorities filed six counts of fraud and another of conspiracy to commit fraud against the U.S. tobacco company, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said.
Warren Buffett terminated a $579 million bid for bankrupt textile maker Burlington Industries after a bankruptcy judge rejected sales procedures that favored his investment company, Berkshire Hathaway. A committee of creditors opposed granting a breakup fee as part of the deal, Burlington Industries said.
Ocean Spray rejected an $800 million offer for its juice business from Northland Cranberries, accusing its smaller rival of trying to sow dissension among the 900 growers who own the Ocean Spray cooperative.
Taubman Centers rejected a $17.50-a-share offer from Columbia-based mall rival Rouse in 1998 without telling shareholders, Simon Property Group alleged in a court filing. Simon Property, which is trying to buy Taubman Centers now for $20 a share, or about $4.25 billion in cash and assumed debt, has been trying to advance its hostile takeover effort by attempting to drive a wedge between the Taubman family and the company's independent directors.
US Airways could fully fund its pilots' pension plan if it froze benefits and made proper actuarial assumptions, according to an actuary hired by the pilots. But airline executives, including chief executive David Siegel, told a bankruptcy judge that the only way they can avoid liquidation is to terminate that under-funded plan, which provides benefits to about 8,000 active, retired and furloughed pilots. It is not clear when U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Stephen Mitchell will rule on the pension issue, the last major hurdle the Arlington-based airline faces in its effort to emerge from bankruptcy by March 31. Also, US Airways elected to keep a $5 billion contract with Electronic Data Systems after threatening to cancel the deal. The airline had accused EDS of violating the contract by giving better terms to larger carriers.
State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance, the biggest U.S. auto and home insurer, reported that it lost $2.8 billion in 2002, compared with a $5 billion loss the previous year. State Farm, owned by policyholders, more than halved the underwriting loss in its homeowners unit to $1.6 billion in 2002.
Fiat reported a loss of $4.6 billion in 2002, compared with a loss of about $854 million in 2001, citing the cost of restructuring its troubled auto unit. Total corporate sales fell 4 percent, to $59.9 billion. Sales at the Fiat Auto unit fell 9.4 percent.
Compiled from reports by the Associated Press, Bloomberg News, Dow Jones News Service and Washington Post staff writers