Archive for Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Business Briefcase

May 21, 2003

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Groups to sponsor development forum

The Lawrence Association of Neighborhoods and the Lawrence League of Women Voters are sponsoring an economic development forum at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Lawrence Visitors Center, 402 N. Second St.

The event will feature a presentation from Lynn Parman, vice president of economic development for the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce. The forum also will include an update on the Douglas County Economic Development Board's process to rewrite the economic development chapter of Horizon 2020.

The event is open to the public.

Agriculture: Farmland sale finalized

Koch Nitrogen Co. on Tuesday completed its purchase of the bulk of bankrupt agriculture cooperative Farmland Industries Inc.'s nitrogen fertilizer manufacturing and distribution assets.

Domestic assets covered by the deal include Farmland's fertilizer plants in Dodge City; Fort Dodge, Iowa; Enid, Okla.; Beatrice, Neb.; as well as 12 terminals located throughout Minnesota, Kansas, Texas, Iowa and Illinois. The deal did not include Farmland's Lawrence plant.

"These assets will improve our ability to serve customers in key fertilizer markets in the United States, including the Midwestern Corn Belt and the Gulf Coast," said Jeff Walker, president of Wichita-based Koch Nitrogen.

Koch Nitrogen, a subsidiary of the privately held Koch Industries Inc., also purchased Kansas City, Mo.-based Farmland's 50 percent share of Farmland MissChem Ltd., which owns an ammonia plant in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

With the sale of the fertilizer business and other assets, Farmland has paid down its bank debt from $430 million last May to less than $30 million, company spokeswoman Sherlyn Manson said.

Wall Street: Home Depot earnings rise to record levels

The Home Depot Inc. said customer service improvements, advertising and stocked shelves are paying off, leading to a record first-quarter profit that topped Wall Street expectations. Company shares surged more than 9 percent on Tuesday.

Home Depot's sales at stores open at least a year fell 1.6 percent in the quarter ending May 4, a much smaller amount than the 6 percent same-store sales drop in the fourth quarter. The company predicts flat or slightly positive same-store sales for the 2003 fiscal year.

Atlanta-based Home Depot, the nation's second-largest retailer, said earnings improved to $907 million, or 39 cents a share, compared to earnings of $856 million, or 36 cents a share, in the same period last year. The results were 2 cents better than the 37 cents predicted by analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call.

Home Depot's report came a day after rival Lowe's Cos. Inc. reported it missed sales projections but increased earnings by 22 percent. Lowe's stock fell more than 9 percent Monday on the news.

Technology: Hewlett-Packard posts second-quarter profit

Hewlett-Packard Co. reported a $659 million second-quarter profit Tuesday as the computer giant beat Wall Street's sales and earnings expectations.

For the three months ended April 30, HP earned 22 cents per share, compared with profits of $252 million, or 13 cents per share in the same period last year -- before the completion of its $19 billion merger with Compaq Computer Corp.

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