Business Digest

BUSINESS DIGEST

March 09, 2007

Nation: Automakers

Ford to pay `modest' bonuses

Ford Motor Co., which lost a record $12.7 billion last year, will pay "modest" bonuses to every U.S. and Canadian employee, Chief Executive Officer Alan R. Mulally said yesterday, in a bid to rebuild morale. The move comes almost two months after Mulally said he was considering resuming executive bonuses to lift morale at Ford, the second-biggest U.S. automaker. Ford cut about 14,000 salaried jobs last year and said it would close nine plants by 2008 as it lost domestic market share to Asian rivals. The bonuses will be paid to workers who took buyouts last year, as well as to managers outside the United States and Canada, Mulally said.

Investing

Wal-Mart boosts dividend

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. increased its annual dividend 31 percent to 88 cents a share, the largest increase since 1988. The first quarterly dividend at the new rate will be paid April 2, the company said yesterday. The higher payout pushed the indicated yield on the stock to 1.83 percent.

Brown Shoe splitting shares

Brown Shoe Co. Inc., operator of the Famous Footwear and Naturalizer chains, is splitting its shares 3-for-2 and raising its dividend 31 percent. The split is payable on April 3 to shareholders of record as of March 19, the company said yesterday. This is the second time Brown Shoe has split its shares in the past year. Brown Shoe will increase its dividend to 10.5 cents from 8 cents a share on a pre-split basis. The dividend will be 7 cents a share after the split.

Acquisitions

CVS boosts Caremark offer

CVS Corp. boosted its offer yesterday for Caremark Rx Inc. for a third time, just a day after rival bidder Express Scripts Inc. raised its offer for the pharmacy benefits manager. Each of the bids, which include stock and cash, are now valued at about $26.5 billion based on yesterday afternoon's stock prices. The bidding began last November when the drugstore operator CVS offered $21.2 billion in stock for Caremark. Express Scripts joined the fray in December.

Medicine

UnitedHealth changes mind on fines

Group Inc. has suspended in New Jersey a new, controversial policy that enables it to fine doctors if their patients have lab tests in out-of-network facilities. The policy went into effect this month across the nation, but the N.J. Department of Banking and Insurance said in a statement that it asked the insurer not to implement the plan because it was "not satisfied with the legality of these protocols." The department is having discussions with UnitedHealth about the policy, which would allow the insurer to fine a doctor $50 if a patient has tests done in facilities besides Laboratory Corp. of America or other labs the company selected. It is unclear when the discussions would conclude. UnitedHealth spokesman Tyler Mason said the suspension was voluntary and will be temporary. He added that the company expects the review to be finished shortly and in a manner favorable to the insurer.

This column was compiled from dispatches by the Associated Press and Bloomberg News.

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