GM head blames media for woesConsumer criticism spurred by...

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January 20, 1992

GM head blames media for woes

Consumer criticism spurred by a hostile media has crippled the U.S. auto market and obscured recent progress at General Motors Corp., Chairman Robert Stempel said in a magazine interview.

"I haven't seen anything, anywhere -- TV, print media -- that suggests anything done in the U.S. is good," Mr. Stempel told Time magazine in the Jan. 27 issue, which hits newsstands today.

"Certainly the automakers haven't had good press on quality, gas mileage, transmission smoothness."

But Mr. Stempel acknowledged a turnaround in the media on GM's 1992 Cadillac Seville, which won several automotive press awards.

Swiss food giant Nestle

launched a $2.5 billion bid today for France's Perrier, pitting itself against the Agnelli family of Italy in a takeover battle for one of the world's best-known bottled water groups.

Nestle SA and Cie de Suez, a powerful French industrial and investment conglomerate, joined to bid for Perrier, the Paris bourse said. The bid of $273 per share represents a 5.7 percent premium over Perrier's closing stock price Friday.

Source Perrier SA is effectively controlled by Exor SA, a holding company in which the Agnellis have the biggest stake. The Agnellis are perhaps best known for their industrial holdings, which include Italian carmaker Fiat.

South Korea's labor minister

warned today that time was running out for a peaceful settlement of a wage dispute at the country's largest auto plant, occupied by militant workers for the last six days.

Talks between labor and management were to resume today in efforts to resume production at the sprawling Hyundai Motor Co. plant. But the newspaper Hankook Ilbo quoted Kim Pan-gon, Hyundai's chief negotiator, as saying, "Further talks will be meaningless."

More than 10,000 police and troops were deployed near the plant and government officials renewed a warning that force may be used to end the month-long confrontation. Thousands of hooded and masked workers, armed with steel pipes and DTC firebombs, have barricaded themselves inside the Hyundai plant Ulsan, a city 203 miles southeast of Seoul.

Metropolitan Life Insurance Co.

has agreed to acquire the failed Executive Life Insurance Co. of New York, according to a report published today.

Unidentified sources quoted by the Wall Street Journal said that under terms of a deal to be announced Wednesday, Metropolitan would pay up to $70 million for half of Executive Life's business.

Executive Life of New York, which was seized by insurance regulators last year, and California-based Executive Life Insurance Co. are both units of First Executive Corp., which was plagued by huge losses on its junk bond portfolio and a run of withdrawals from policyholders.

Metropolitan is expected to take over Executive Life's annuity and life insurance operations, which have combined assets of $1.4 billion, the Journal said. Metropolitan also will manage for a fee the failed company's pension and structured settlements businesses, though they will remain under regulatory control.

Iran and Algeria

today joined three fellow OPEC states in announcing symbolic oil output cuts to help prop up sagging prices, but powerful Saudi Arabia and its allies remained silent.

The move by Iran and Algeria followed similar cuts by Libya, Venezuela and Nigeria intended to boost oil prices, which are more than $4 below the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries target of $21 a barrel.

Algeria said it would cut production by 2.5 percent of its 800,000 barrels per day output; Iran said it would cut 1.5 percent of its estimated 3.35 million barrels per day. Libya, Venezuela and Nigeria previously made cuts totaling 130,000 barrels per day.

"Whatever happens, it is unlikely that [Saudi Arabia] . . . will join the voluntary cutback bandwagon before the scheduled OPEC meeting on Feb. 12," the authoritative Middle East Economic Survey said today.

United Technologies Corp.

plans to announce a major restructuring tomorrow aimed at cutting $1 billion in costs over the next two years, a spokesman said yesterday.

The aerospace giant, which supplies the U.S. military with helicopters, jet engines and other equipment, last year suffered its first annual operating loss in two decades. The corporation's earnings for the first nine months of 1991 were down 65 percent from the same period of 1990.

Last year, in an earlier round of cuts, about 300 of UTC's 1,000 corporate employees accepted early retirement packages. And the company's jet-engine making division, Pratt & Whitney, based in East Hartford, Conn., cut more than 2,400 jobs last year. UTC has 186,000 workers worldwide.

Hopes

that the Federal Reserve will engineer another interest-rate cut in the near future are dimming by the day, with economists now saying the next opportunity for the central bank to act will not come until February.

But even then, rate-sensitive bond traders are no longer confident that an easing will occur, reversing expectations at the beginning of the year that another rate cut was likely.

"The Fed has probably done enough already," said Dana Sorrentino, an economist at Citicorp Investment Bank. "Monetary policy has lags of six to nine months."

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