Vivendi plans to sell all publishing assets, newspaper...

BUSINESS DIGEST

August 17, 2002

Vivendi plans to sell all publishing assets, newspaper reports

Embattled media and entertainment giant Vivendi Universal will follow up its planned sale of U.S. publisher Houghton Mifflin with the sale of the rest of its publishing assets, a French newspaper reported yesterday.

The sale of Vivendi Universal Publishing and Houghton Mifflin would bring the cash-strapped conglomerate about $2 billion, Le Figaro reported. The other publishing assets include French publisher Larousse and Blizzard Entertainment, which makes video games.

Officials at Vivendi Universal declined to comment on the report. But Chairman Jean-Rene Fourtou said Wednesday that the company planned to sell at least $9.8 billion worth of assets, including Houghton Mifflin, which it acquired last year for $1.7 billion.

SEC charges ex-executive at HPSC unit with fraud

A former executive of HPSC Inc.'s American Commercial Financial Corp. subsidiary was charged yesterday by the Securities and Exchange Commission with diverting more than $4.7 million through accounting fraud.

Kevin Morrison of West Hartford, Conn., was charged in a civil suit filed in U.S. District Court in Boston with providing fictitious financial reports on American Commercial to senior HPSC management and its outside auditors to hide the diversion, the SEC said.

HPSC, which finances health-care equipment, overstated its net income and earnings per share by 4 percent to 112 percent between Dec. 31, 1997, and March 31 this year as a result of Morrison's suspected fraud, the SEC said.

Subaru-Isuzu to lay off 215 because of dip in SUV sales

Subaru-Isuzu Automotive Inc. plans to lay off 215 workers, 4.8 percent of its work force, starting Sept. 2 because of slumping sales of Isuzu sport utility vehicles.

Company officials said the truck assembly line at the Lafayette, Ind., plant will be idled for two months, curtailing production of 6,000 Rodeo, Rodeo Sport and Axiom SUVs. Production of the better-selling Subaru will continue.

Isuzu has access to half of the production capacity at the plant, which was built in the 1980s with Subaru owner Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. Through June, Isuzu had sold 28,763 vehicles in the United States, down from 50,434 in the first half of last year.

Scientific-Atlanta to cut 6% of its work force

Scientific-Atlanta, a maker of cable equipment, said yesterday that it is cutting 400 nonmanufacturing jobs, about 6 percent of its work force.

The company said the latest cuts, the result of diminished demand for its products, will reduce its costs and expenses by about $40 million annually, starting in the second half of its 2003 fiscal year.

The cuts, which include 245 jobs in Atlanta, will reduce the number of employees to about 6,250 worldwide. In Atlanta, 1,639 employees will remain after the cuts, most of which are effective immediately. Last month, Scientific-Atlanta eliminated 1,300 jobs at its plant in Juarez, Mexico.

Deutsche Telekom might leave foreign markets

Deutsche Telekom might pull out of some foreign markets as part of an overhaul intended to stem losses and reduce debts, its new chief executive officer said in remarks published yesterday.

Helmut Sihler was appointed interim CEO of the German communications giant last month to replace Ron Sommer, who left under pressure over growing losses and debts. Sihler promised a swift review of Telekom's strategy, raising speculation that the company might look for a partner for its U.S. mobile phone unit, VoiceStream.

In an interview with the Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper, Sihler said the company will accelerate a restructuring that includes cutting 22,000 jobs over three years to save billions of dollars. He warned that the company will have another big loss this year after losing 3.5 billion euros last year.

This column was compiled from reports by Sun staff writers, the Associated Press and Bloomberg News.

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