Consumers less optimisticConsumer confidence slipped in...

BUSINESS DIGEST

March 01, 1995

Consumers less optimistic

Consumer confidence slipped in February for the second straight month as optimism about the current state of the economy was undercut by mounting worries about the future, a key survey found yesterday.

The Conference Board, a business research group, said its overall consumer confidence index declined to 99 in February from 101.4 in January. The index uses a 1985 base of 100.

In a separate report that also signals a possible slowdown in the national economy, the National Association of Realtors reported yesterday that sales of existing single-family homes fell 4.5 percent in January, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 3.59 million. That was the lowest level since April 1993.

USTravel to merge with IVI

Rockville-based USTravel and IVI Business Travel International said yesterday that they have agreed to merge, creating the third-largest travel company in the country.

The companies did not disclose the terms of the merger, which is effective immediately. The new company will be called BTI Americas Inc. and will be based in Northbrook, Ill., at the former IVI headquarters. BTI will rank in size behind American Express and Carlson Wagonlit Travel.

The merged companies handle about $23 billion of airline ticket purchases a year.

National Gypsum gets British offer

BPB Industries PLC of Britain offered $1.1 billion yesterday to buy National Gypsum Co., but investors were betting that the bidding would rise.

BPB, a major wallboard producer and a dominant force in Europe, said it offered $48.50 a share for all of National Gypsum, which emerged from bankruptcy less than two years ago.

Charlotte N.C.-based National Gypsum said the bid was the first "outside" offer it had received since rejecting two unsolicited offers from companies led by a former director, C. D. Spangler.

Martin wins Hellfire missile pact

Martin Marietta Corp.'s Electronics and Missiles division in Orlanda, Fla., has been awarded a $68.9 million Army contract to build 1,466 Hellfire II missiles. The Hellfire is designed to be the main armament for the Army's Apache and Marine Corps' Cobra attack helicopters.

Signet completes credit-card spinoff

Signet Banking Corp. said yesterday that it had completed the spinoff of its credit card subsidiary, Capital One Financial Corp. Richmond, Va.-based Signet transferred its interest in Capital One directly to Signet shareholders through a one-for-one, tax-free distribution of common stock.

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