Originally created 07/20/02

Business briefs



AROUND TOWN

Merry Land reports decline in funding

Augusta-based Merry Land Properties Inc. reported second-quarter funds from operations totaled $600,000, or 23 cents per share, down from $700,000, or 30 cents per share, in 2001.

Net income, in which depreciation and other noncash charges are deducted was 5 cents per share per share for the quarter and $1.22 per share year to date, compared to $0 and 1 cent per share for the same periods last year.

Both the decline in funds from operation and the increase in net income for the year resulted from the sale of two apartment communities in the first quarter of this year and the sale of one apartment community in the third quarter of last year.

BRIEFLY

Trade deficit up

WASHINGTON - Americans' ravenous appetite for foreign-made cars, TVs and clothes propelled the U.S. trade deficit to a record $37.6 billion in May.

The deficit was 4.1 percent higher than the $36.1 billion trade gap reported for April, the Commerce Department reported Friday. Despite a modest increase in exports, imports rose more than twice as fast.

"We are buying up most everything again," said economist Joel Naroff, of Naroff Economic Advisors. "Rising imports are another sign of improving (U.S.) economic activity, even if they did drive up the trade deficit."

In another report, consumer prices edged up 0.1 percent in June, suggesting that inflation still is not a risk to the economy as it struggles to return to robust health.

Tobacco giant sees rise in profits

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Holdings Inc. reported its second-quarter earnings rose as shipments declined to reflect lower demand, but the nation's second-largest cigarette company also warned that its third-quarter profits may fall below Wall Street's expectations.

Net income for the Winston-Salem-based company in the second quarter was $211 million, up from $127 million during the same period of 2001. Earnings per share increased to $2.29 from $1.26.

The reported results reflect goodwill amortization expense of $80 million, or 80 cents per share, in last year's second quarter.

NOTE TO READERS

'Augusta Chronicle' seeks story on salespeople

The Augusta Chronicle is looking for a few good salespeople.

The Chronicle wants to do a story on what it takes to become a top sales representative. For business owners and managers, let us know about your business's top salesperson and what makes him or her so successful.

For customers, tell us about someone who charmed your socks off when you were out window shopping. Be it insurance, cars, stereos or houses - anything - we want to hear about it. Call John Bankston at the business desk, 823-3352, or e-mail him at john.banks@augustachronicle.com.

New fare cuts mean possible airline woes

DALLAS -Despite more than $1.4 billion in second-quarter losses, much of it blamed on lower fares, the major U.S. airlines cut ticket prices this week in a move that could signal fear of a much longer slump in air travel.

US Airways touched off the fare reductions Wednesday night. By Friday, American, United and Northwest had matched US Airways' action, and even expanded upon it in certain markets. Some of the cuts lowered prices by 40 percent or more.

The sales, most of which run through September, come at a curious time for the airlines. This week, they reported results for the three months ended June 30, and only one - Southwest Airlines, the nation's sixth-largest airline - earned a profit in the second quarter.

Fast work promised on anti-fraud laws

WASHINGTON -House and Senate negotiators promised swift action as they began crafting compromise legislation Friday aimed at fighting business fraud. One lawmaker said they already agree "on about 90 percent of the issues."

Harvey Pitt, the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, which is investigating accounting irregularities at dozens of companies, said restoring investor confidence is "going to take some people going off to jail."

Drink, snack maker posts profit increase

NEW YORK -PepsiCo Inc. said Friday its profit rose 11.2 percent in the second quarter but said revenue growth was slower than it had expected in part due to weakness in its Tropicana business.

The snack food and soft drink company, based in Purchase, N.Y., reaffirmed its earnings growth forecast for the year, however, and announced its board authorized the company to buy back up to $5 billion in stock over the next three years.