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Archive for Thursday, February 18, 1999

BUSINESS BRIEFCASE FOR SATURDAY

February 18, 1999

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Priceline.com says

fill 'er up -- online

Pinched at the pump by some of the highest gasoline prices in a decade, motorists may be able to turn to the Internet for relief this spring.

Priceline.com, the name-your-own-price Web site for travel, groceries and home mortgages, said Friday it would add gas purchases beginning May 20.

Jay Walker, the company's co-founder and chairman, estimated that most motorists would save 10 cents to 20 cents per gallon. The company can offer lower prices because participating gas stations will pay it a few cents per gallon to get new customers, he said.

With gasoline prices at 10-year highs in many areas, Priceline said the time was right for the new service. Retail gas prices averaged $1.41 per gallon last week, up from about $1 a gallon a year earlier.

Boeing eyed for

$680 million contract

South African Airways (SAA) has recommended U.S.-based Boeing as the supplier of 20-25 new planes in a possible deal worth $680 million, a senior government official said Friday.

The official said the recommendation was still subject to final approval by Transnet, South Africa's transport utility, which owns 80 percent of Africa's largest airline. Swissair owns the other 20 percent.

Boeing and Europe's Airbus Industrie have been bidding for the lucrative deal aimed at refreshing SAA's domestic and regional fleet, which has some aircraft that have been flying for more than 25 years.

Aetna chairman resigns

Aetna Inc.'s outspoken chairman resigned Friday, succumbing to intense pressure from shareholders who want the nation's largest health insurer to boost its ailing stock price and improve its relations with patients and doctors.

Analysts welcomed the decision by Richard L. Huber to step down, but warned the company has left unclear how it plans to overcome rising medical costs and lawsuits alleging that the company unduly restricts care to build profits.

The company, which provides health insurance benefits to 21 million Americans, wouldn't say whether Huber was forced out.

Aetna's board of directors replaced him with William H. Donaldson, 68, a board member since 1977, and co-founder of the investment banking firm Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette. Donaldson, a former chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, is only expected to hold the top job for a short while.

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