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Archive for Tuesday, July 24, 2001

Business briefcase for Tuesday

July 24, 2001

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The arrival of McDonald's in Japan helped change the eating habits of a nation -- wooing rice-lovers to burgers and fries, making fast-food a part of everyday life and marking the birth of a business empire.

Thirty years later, McDonald's Co. Japan is becoming a publicly listed company -- a first among the McDonald's operations outside the United States-- making its initial public offering Thursday on the Jasdaq market for ventures.

At a price of $35 per share for 26.2 million shares, the IPO is expected to earn about $405 million and promises to be one of the hottest in Japan this year.

Going public is part of McDonald's move to grow even bigger and raise its corporate profile even higher in Japan.

TELEVISION

Disney buys cable network

for $3 billion, to rename it

In a deal that will give The Walt Disney Co. valuable distribution and News Corp. cash to finance an acquisition of its own, Disney is buying Fox Family Worldwide Inc. for $3 billion in cash and assuming $2.3 billion in debt.

The deal announced Monday adds the children's cable network to Disney's portfolio, which already includes ESPN, the Disney Channel and stakes in A&E and Lifetime. The Fox Family Channel, which Disney plans to rename ABC Family, reaches about 81 million cable subscribers in the United States.

MOVIES

Hallmark Entertainment sells

about 700 titles from film library

Crown Media Holdings Inc. shareholders have approved a plan to buy a majority of the titles in Hallmark Entertainment's film library.

The deal, worth about $820 million, was approved by holders of 79 percent of Crown's class A stock, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing made Wednesday.

Crown Media, which is based in Greenwood Village, Colo., said it will give Hallmark shares of its stock worth about $600 million and assume $220 million of Hallmark Entertainment Inc.'s debt. The number of shares will be based on the average price of Crown Media's stock on particular dates.

The deal will provide Crown Media with about 700 titles from about 1,100 titles in the library of Hallmark Entertainment Distribution, which is the distribution arm of Hallmark Entertainment, a wholly owned subsidiary of Kansas City, Mo.-based Hallmark Cards. Many were television movies that were shown from 1993 to 1999.

INTERNET

Amazon.com beats predictions,

announces AOL alliance

Amazon.com's second-quarter net loss narrowed, beating Wall Street's expectations, as the online retailer said it remained on track to record "pro forma" operating profitablity by the fourth-quarter.

Separately, Amazon.com announced a strategic alliance with America Online to provide a special e-commerce offering for AOL's more than 30 million users. In exchange, AOL is making a $100 million equity investment in Amazon.com.

For the quarter ended June 30, the Seattle retailer reported a net loss of $168.4 million, or 47 cents a share, compared with a loss of $317.2 million, or 91 cents a share, in the same period last year.

AGRICULTURE

Heat cutting crop yields,

hay production in Kansas

Scorching July temperatures have taken a heavy toll on Kansas field crops, hay production and pastures. Rains in the forecast for this week may bring some relief to some of the state's biggest crops.

Scott Staggenborg, an extension crop specialist at Kansas State University, said rain now will not help the Kansas corn crop.

On Monday, Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service said 15 percent of the state's corn crop was in very poor or poor condition. Another 31 percent was rated slightly better and given a fair ranking. About 45 percent was in good condition, and 9 percent in excellent shape.

Dry weather has also cut hay production, with about one-third to half of the growing season left in Kansas, said Steve Hessman, hay market reporter for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's office in Dodge City.

"It hasn't had a major effect on prices yet, but it sure has on attitudes. Everyone remembers last year how hot and dry it was," he said. "... They are hanging on this hay pretty tight."

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