Bell Atlantic merger off againBell Atlantic Corp...

BUSINESS DIGEST

February 15, 1994

Bell Atlantic merger off again

Bell Atlantic Corp., Tele-Communications Inc. and Liberty Corp., still divided on specific terms of their $21.4 billion merger, signaled yesterday that they will push back the signing of a definitive agreement for the third time in three months.

Under a letter of intent, Bell Atlantic said it would give TCI shareholders 220 million Class B shares. But since the day the three companies signed a letter of intent to merge in October, Bell Atlantic's shares have fallen 17 percent. At the same time, federal review of cable rates has raised questions about the value of cable company TCI's subscriber base.

Yesterday, the third target date for an agreement, the companies said only that they continued to talk and that an announcement will be made when an agreement is signed.

Businesses keep inventories low

Businesses kept their inventories lean in December and kept pace with buying demand during the holiday season, say economists interpreting the latest government figures.

Inventories were unchanged in December, while sales were up 0.8 percent, the Commerce Department said yesterday. November inventories had risen 0.6 percent, the biggest increase since January 1991.

Economists were cautious in interpreting the figures. Low business inventories could signal that factories will have to slow production, but they could also presage an imminent burst of new orders when demand grows.

The inventory total ended a four-month string of advances.

Ford seeks to control Hertz

Ford Motor Co. said yesterday that it wants to take majority control of the Hertz Corp., the world's largest car rental company.

News of Ford's intent came in a request for approval of the move from the European Commission. The U.S. automaker, which already owns 49 percent of Hertz, did not indicate what size stake it was seeking. The other stockholders in Hertz are Sweden's AB Volvo with 26 percent, Germany's Commerzbank AG with 5 percent and Hertz management with 20 percent.

Griffith net income leaps

Griffith Consumers Co. reported yesterday that fiscal second-quarter net income almost doubled as the Cheverly company sold more heating oil after the acquisition of Steuart Petroleum Co. in June.

In the quarter that ended Dec. 31, Griffith's net income rose to a record $1.5 million, or 63 cents a share, from $755,000, or 32 cents, in the year-ago period.

Revenue rose to $45.6 million from $39.9 million as the company sold 27 percent more petroleum products, including 42 percent more heating oil, after the Steuart Petroleum acquisition.

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