Staff On Apr 2 2001 - 6:00am

Gateway Closes 27 Country Stores, Promises No New Ones

SAN DIEGO —Gateway last week shuttered 27 of its Country Stores and reiterated a previous promise that it would not open any additional stores this year. The majority of the affected stores are in Los Angeles, Virginia, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Texas. The company said the stores suffered from low sales or were located too close together.

Altec Lansing First SA8000-Certified CE Vendor

MILFORD, PA. —Personal computer audio products maker Altec Lansing Technologies said its manufacturing facility in the People's Republic of China has received Social Accountability (SA8000) certification. The company is the first CE manufacturer to meet this benchmark. SA8000 is an international standard designed to ensure safe working conditions, fair management practices and protection of workers' rights, including working conditions. SA8000 is based on a universal set of standards that are in compliance with both local Chinese laws and international levels of acceptance.

Maytag Sees Improved Earnings Per Share

NEWTON, IOWA —Maytag said it expects earning per share in its first quarter, excluding a tax benefit of about $42 million, to improve over fourth-quarter 2000, as the company had previously said. Maytag reported 40 cents per share in fourth-quarter 2000, excluding special charges. The company said it would be a challenge, faced with weak sales and prices, to achieve the current First Call estimate of 45 cents per share. "While there is weakness in industry sales of major appliances continuing from last year, Maytag is seeing somewhat stronger-than-industry sales and share gains in some product categories," said CEO Leonard A. Hadley. "We expect to deliver quarter-to-quarter earnings per share improvement in 2001, although the favorable slope of the trend line may not be as steep as we had envisioned originally."

Whirlpool Expects Q1 Earnings In High End

BENTON HARBOR, MICH. —Whirlpool remains confident it will report first-quarter 2001 earnings in the high end of its expected range, excluding restructuring. "Despite recent concerns about the U.S. economy," said chairman/CEO David R. Whitwam, "Whirlpool's performance is in line with our prior expectations." The company still anticipates a challenging quarter for the major appliance industry in North America, compared with record-high shipments in first-quarter 2000. Whirlpool plans to announce first-quarter financial results April 18.

Panja Executes $5 Million Private Equity Placement

RICHARDSON, TEXAS —Panja has closed a $5 million private equity placement. The investor group, headed by Scott Miller, Panja's founder and president/CEO, has purchased 1.2 million shares of common stock. Panja plans to use the proceeds, previously announced as $5.5 million in late February, to supplement the company's working capital and to fund product development. Panja, which designs, develops and markets advanced electronic equipment software that extends Internet content to consumer-targeted non-PC devices, expects the additional financing to strengthen and expand support for its integrator distribution channels, said Miller.

VTech To Cut Operating Costs By $30M Over Six Months

HONG KONG —Electronic learning and telecommunication products maker VTech will restructure its global operations over the next six months. The company intends to reduce operating costs by about $30 million and focus on higher-margin products. VTech will reduce its work force by 16 percent worldwide, or about 4,500 jobs, 3,000 of which will come from Mexican factories. The company's consumer telephone operations will be consolidated into a single location in Portland, Ore.

Thomson Completes Purchase Of Philips' Professional Broadcast Unit

PARIS —Thomson Multimedia has completed acquisition of the Professional Broadcast activities of Philips Royal Electronics. The purchase, which is intended to strengthen Thomson's Digital Media Solutions division, will be called Thomson Multimedia Broadcast Solutions. The unit will address end-to-end needs of the businesses that operate in the digital media chain, putting Thomson in position to better provide the media industry and operators with server-based network architectures and integrated digital solutions.

Circuit City Stores Announces Quarterly Dividend

RICHMOND, VA. —Circuit City Stores has declared a quarterly dividend of 1.75 cents per share on the Circuit City Stores-Circuit City Group stock. Dividends are payable April 13, 2001 to shareholders of record at the close of business on March 30.

Fedders Acquires German Air Treatment Products Distributor

LIBERTY CORNER, N.J. —Fedders has acquired Polenz GmbH, a Norderstedt, Germany-based air treatment products distributor, from Senior plc. Polenz distributes a broad line of heating, ventilating and air conditioning products. The purchase price for Polenz, which had 2001 revenue of $25.6 million, was not disclosed.

VoiceStream Shareholders Approve Deutsche Telekom Merger

BELLEVUE, WASH. —Shareholders at U.S. mobile phone operator VoiceStream Wireless have approved the company's merger with German telecommunications giant Deutsche Telekom AG. VoiceStream had agreed to be acquired last July. Deutsche Telekom also is acquiring West Point, Ga.-based Powertel, which VoiceStream agreed to acquire last August for about $6 billion. The deal still has to be approved by government agencies. At the same time, VoiceStream said its board has approved a 0.0075 common share stock dividend, which will be paid on April 6 to shareholders of record on March 23, 2001. VoiceStream uses and operates the Global System for Mobile communications technology platform that accounts for about 70 percent of the total digital wireless market, the company said.

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