Business Digest

BUSINESS DIGEST

June 23, 2005

In the Region

Tribune nearing end of settlements linked to circulation fraud

Tribune Co. expects to reach settlements with most advertisers affected by circulation misstatements at its Newsday and Hoy newspapers by the end of the month, Chief Executive Officer Dennis J. FitzSimons said yesterday.

"We will substantially complete our settlement process by the end of the second quarter," he said in a speech at the Newspaper Association of America's Mid-Year Review. "So far we have a settlement with more than 33,000 advertisers, including more than 80 percent of our largest advertisers."

FOR THE RECORD - In a Business Digest item yesterday about Lee Enterprises Inc., the Associated Press erroneously reported that the company's acquisition of Pulitzer Inc. will cause earnings to decline 8 cents to 10 cents per share for the rest of 2005. Lee expects the decline to occur in its fiscal year 2005, which ends in September.
The Sun regrets the errors.

Last week, three former employees of Newsday and Hoy were arrested and charged with cheating advertisers by inflating circulation figures. The results of the investigation by the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, N.Y., uncovered the same information found in an internal Tribune probe, FitzSimons said. Tribune set aside a reserve last year to pay for settlements.

Shares of Tribune, whose papers also include the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and The Sun, fell 10 cents to $36.45 yesterday in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The company is the second-largest newspaper publisher behind Gannett Co.

Business incubator group elects Marschner president

The Maryland Business Incubation Association, formed to advance business incubators across the state, said yesterday that Chris Marschner has been elected president.

Marschner, director of the Technical Innovation Center at Hagerstown Community College since 1996, had spent the past three years as the MBIA's treasurer.

The MBIA was founded in March 2001 so that directors of such centers in Maryland could meet and share ideas. The organization now includes 16 incubators, which together house 205 early-stage companies.

Elsewhere

Tests of new SUVs indicate 24 models less apt to roll over

Automakers have made strides in designing new sport utility vehicles that are safer and more resistant to dangerous rollover crashes, new government tests show.

In tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, two dozen SUVs from the 2005 model year earned a four-star rating, representing a vast improvement compared with one vehicle that received a four-star rating in 2001. No SUV earned a five-star rating.

Under the government's ratings for rollovers, a vehicle with five stars has a rollover risk of less than 10 percent, and a four-star vehicle has a 10 percent to 20 percent risk. Three-star vehicles have a 20 percent to 30 percent risk.

Among SUVs, the Ford Freestyle 4-by-4 was rated best among the four-star vehicles with a 13 percent chance of rollover. It was joined by the Chrysler Pacifica, which earned the same score in 2004 and was not retested because it had no significant changes to its structure. The ratings are available at http://www.safercar.gov.

Chinese oil company offers $18.5 billion for Unocal

China's third-largest oil producer made an unsolicited $18.5 billion bid yesterday for oil and gas company Unocal Corp., which has already agreed to be acquired by Chevron Corp. for $16.4 billion.

Unocal acknowledged the offer from CNOOC Ltd., an affiliate of China National Offshore Oil Corp., to buy the company for $67 per share in cash. Unocal said that it would evaluate the bid but that its board's previous recommendation to shareholders to accept the Chevron offer remained in place.

Chevron offered in April to acquire Unocal in a deal that offered Unocal shareholders a choice of accepting $65 per share in cash, 1.03 shares of Chevron stock or a combination of stock and cash. CNOOC Ltd.'s chairman and CEO, Fu Chengyu, called the bid "friendly" and said it would be superior for Unocal shareholders.

Boeing rival for USAF pact picks Ala. site for factory

The parent of European aircraft maker Airbus SAS, seeking to better compete with Boeing Co. for a lucrative Air Force contract to build military refueling tankers, said yesterday that it has chosen Mobile, Ala., for a $600 million factory.

The European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. selected the Alabama site over rival bids from Melbourne, Fla.; Kiln, Miss.; and North Charleston, S.C.

Ralph D. Crosby, chairman and CEO of EADS North America, said Mobile was chosen because it is "strategically located" on the Gulf of Mexico and offers a skilled work force, airport runways and a deep-water port. An Airbus engineering center is expected to open next year, the company said. If it wins the tanker contract, the first plane could be delivered in 2008 or 2009, with a maximum annual capacity of 20 aircraft.

Newspaper company Lee forecasts earnings decline

Lee Enterprises Inc. said yesterday that its earnings per share could decline 8 cents to 10 cents for the remainder of 2005 as a result of the acquisition of Pulitzer Inc.

Company officials also predicted increasing costs and declines in circulation would continue and a "cloudy at best" increase in classified advertising revenue.

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