Business briefs

Published: Saturday, January 25, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 25, 2003 at 1:50 a.m.

CMS Energy suspends dividend to raise cash

DEARBORN, Mich. - CMS Energy Corp. said Friday it is suspending its dividend to raise cash as it tries to overcome a crushing debt through asset sales and cost-cutting.

The utility company also raised its projected loss per share for 2002 to $4.25 to $4.75. CMS says it has not decided when to release its full-year earnings.

In trading on the New York Stock Exchange, CMS Energy sank $2.47, or 28.9 percent, to close Friday at $6.07.

CMS said suspending the dividend will save about $100 million in 2003. Its dividends were $1.46 per share in 2001 and $1.09 a share in the first three quarters of 2002.

National Century will shut down operations

COLUMBUS, Ohio - National Century Financial Enterprises Inc., which provides financing for health care providers, said Friday it will halt operations in the next few months because its debts are too large to emerge from bankruptcy protection.

The company does not have a targeted date for the shutdown.

National Century filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Nov. 18, two days after FBI agents began searching its offices. The FBI and Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating the company, which has more than $4 billion in debt.

E-Trade CEO, chairman resigns amid shake-up

SAN FRANCISCO - Christos M. Cotsakos resigned as E-Trade Group Inc.'s chairman and chief executive Friday, ending his seven-year reign over a company he transformed from an obscure online brokerage into a symbol of dot-com audacity.

The Menlo Park-based company named its president and chief operating officer, Mitchell H. Caplan, as its new CEO. George Hayter, already a member of E-Trade's board, assumes the chairman's role.

The shake-up comes amid lingering shareholder resentment over an $80 million compensation package awarded to Cotsakos in 2001. Despite his agreement to relinquish some of that, the backlash continued to hurt E-Trade's stock, which plunged 53 percent last year.

Owner of Fiat empire Giovanni Agnelli dies

ROME - Giovanni Agnelli, the stylish business baron whose rule over the Fiat empire made him the symbol of his nation's postwar climb to prosperity, died Friday. He was 81.

Agnelli, who had been ill with prostate cancer, used charisma, grit - and more than a little assistance from the Italian government - to expand a Turin automaker into a conglomerate with interests from steel to chemicals to newspapers.

His death came on the day the family had a key meeting of its holding company. The meeting - which observers said could determine whether the Agnellis continue their involvement in automobiles and at what level - went on as scheduled, though the family gave no details.

General Motors Corp. owns 20 percent of Fiat Auto, and the Italian company has an option to force GM to buy the remaining 80 percent starting in 2004. Some investors viewed Agnelli as an impediment to a sale.

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