Rating boosts USF&G stockStock of Baltimore-based USF&G...

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April 09, 1991

Rating boosts USF&G stock

Stock of Baltimore-based USF&G Corp. was higher today in heavy trading after an analyst boosted his investment rating to "buy" from "sell."

On the New York Stock Exchange, USF&G stock was up 1 at at 1 p.m. Composite volume in midday trading was about 1 million shares, compared with average daily volume of about 494,700.

Michael Takata of County NatWest Wood Mackenzie cited the aggressive restructing efforts led by Chairman and Chief Executive Norman P. Blake Jr., who took over in November.

"I haven't seen a new manager come into this industry and act so quickly. I think there's a lot of potential here," said Takata.

Blake has moved quickly to discontinue non-core businesses, slash the dividend, withdraw from underwrithing property and casualty lines in unprofitable areas and pay down debt.

New computer

Cray Research, the American supercomputer company battling against deeper-pocketed Japanese rivals, announced in Tokyo yesterday that it will begin selling the Y-MP8, a supercomputer which, starting at a cost of $300,000, is one-third cheaper than its predecessor but computes just as fast.

The company also released the results of a performance test by the Los Alamos National Laboratory that gave high marks to Cray's product line. The new comparison tests showed the Y-MP8 besting its Japanese competitors in many key software tests.

The Los Alamos tests could be an important marketing tool for Cray. The company has been embarrassed by other benchmark comparisons published in the United States recently in which NEC supercomputers left Cray in the dust.

The Plaza Hotel, one of New York City's grandest landmarks, would be converted into luxury condominiums if developer Donald Trump has his way, a newspaper reported.

Trump has drawn up a conversion plan aimed at bailing out his ailing financial empire by selling 800 of the Plaza's 813 rooms as condos, the New York Times reported today. The units would be sold for an average $1,500 a square foot, compared with the average price of $500 per square foot for condos with similarly posh addresses, according to the report. His plan must be submitted to and approved by the state attorney general's office, however.

New directors

Merry-Go-Round Enterprises Inc. said it has appointed three new directors to its board, including company executive Isaac Kaufman.

In addition to being named a new board member, Kaufman has been promoted from chief financial officer to executive vice president of the Joppa-based retailer.

Also named to the firm's board were Alan E. Berkowitz and Raymond F. Altman. Berkowitz heads the Baltimore accounting firm of Alan E. Berkowitz and Associates; Altman is an attorney for the law firm of Freishtat & Sandler.

The three appointments increase the Merry-Go-Round board to eight members, the retailer said.

Campbell's agrees to ad change

Campbell Soup Co. has agreed to change its advertising to settle a government complaint that it made deceptive claims about the health benefits of its soups, the Federal Trade Commission said.

Under yesterday's proposed agreement with the FTC, the nation's leading maker of canned soups will list the sodium content of some soups in ads that refer to heart disease. The FTC charged in 1989 that Campbell's advertising was deceptive because it did not mention the soups' high sodium content.

Sears opening fewer stores

Sears, Roebuck & Co. has said it would open 26 new and relocated retail stores this year, substantially down from last year's 45 new stores.

The Chicago-based retailer, which has been coping with declining sales in its merchandising group, yesterday called the year's new-store program "a careful, strategic expansion, based the stores' performance and market conditions."

Sears said it would open 10 stores this summer, including six new stores and four relocated stores.

In the fall, new stores will open in Baltimore, Fairbanks, Alaska, and Midland, Mich. As of Dec. 31, Sears operated 863 retail stores.

S&L owner gets jail term

A federal judge has slapped a 12-year prison term on Roy Dailey, the first owner of a failed Houston savings and loan to be convicted of fraud in the operation of his thrift.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt yesterday also ordered Dailey to repay the $5.5 million that First Savings Association of East Texas lost as a result of the Dailey's actions. Dailey was accused of arranging $6.7 million in loans in return for $371,000 in kickbacks and then falsifying thrift documents to make the loans appear legitimate. He was convicted of six counts in December.

Kerkorian files plan for TWA

Investor Kirk Kerkorian has to invest $250 million in troubled Trans World Airlines Inc. and make a good-faith offer for the airline company if it cancels a deal to sell key London routes.

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