CONGRESSMEN INTRODUCE BILL AIMED AT WAL-MART
D-Mass., and Jon Corzine, D-N.J., and U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., last week introduced a bill that would require states to report annually on the number of employees of large companies who receive health care through tax-funded agencies. The bill, dubbed the Health Care Accountability Act, aims to "uncover the true costs of the Wal-Mart economy," according to a press release from Corzine. Data from the 15 states that currently require such disclosure demonstrates that Wal-Mart "is the biggest abuser of taxpayer-subsidized health care" and forces workers into public systems designed for the needy, according to the release. The bill is supported by Wake-Up Wal-Mart, a union-backed coalition opposing Wal-Mart Stores. In response, the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer said it supports transparency "as long as the collection is equally applied to all employers in the U.S., not just aimed at Wal-Mart."
AHOLD CLOSES WILSON FARMS, SUGARCREEK SALE
ZAANDAM, Netherlands -- Ahold here said last week that it has completed the sale of its Wilson Farms and Sugarcreek convenience stores. Ahold had announced the planned divestiture of the units, a division of Ahold's Buffalo, N.Y.-based Tops Markets, in April. WFI Acquisition, a joint venture of Nanco Enterprises and Bruckmann, Rosser, Sherill & Co., purchased the 198-store chains. A purchase price was not disclosed. The sale marks the last of Ahold's previously announced cutbacks in its U.S. operations following the 2003 disclosure of more than $1 billion in overstated profits.
SUPER H RECEIVES PERMISSION TO VIEW SEIZED SCANNER
SKIATOOK, Okla. -- A District Court judge here said that attorneys for Super H and Wal-Mart Stores, Bentonville, Ark., may view information downloaded from an electronic scanner that a Super H manager seized from a Wal-Mart employee in a Super H store. The local supermarket filed suit earlier this month saying Wal-Mart had engaged in corporate espionage by gathering price, movement and cost information by scanning shelf tags at Super H. It filed suit to block Wal-Mart from retaining the scanning device. Wal-Mart has denied any wrongdoing. According to a report, the stores also agreed to a 10-page series of definitions concerning how evidence in the case will be treated. Some will be "unprotected," some "confidential" and some "highly confidential" or "for attorneys' eyes only," the agreement states.
REPORT: SENATE NEARING ESTATE TAX COMPROMISE
WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Senate was close to a bipartisan compromise that would phase out the controversial estate tax issue, the Wall Street Journal reported last week. According to the report, the compromise would permanently wipe out estate taxes for all but the wealthiest U.S. residents. Negotiators reportedly agreed to dramatically and permanently lower the estate tax rate beyond 2010 and boost the amount per person that is exempt from taxes to more than $3 million. The U.S. House of Representatives voted to repeal the tax permanently in April.
ALBERTSONS GAINS $400 MILLION CREDIT FACILITY
BOISE, Idaho -- Albertsons here last week said it completed the refinancing of its 364-day, $400 million revolving credit facility and entered into a new, five-year $400 million credit facility with Bank of America. The agreement requires Albertsons to maintain a minimum fixed-charge coverage ratio of not less than 2.6-to-1 through April 30, 2006, and not less than 2.7-to-1 thereafter; and a maximum consolidated leverage ratio not to exceed 4.5-to-1 through April 30, 2006, 4.25-to-1 through April 30, 2007 and 4-to-1 thereafter. The new facility does not contain any triggers that would affect borrowing ability in the event of a credit downgrade, but an adverse rating change would increase quarterly fees and the cost of borrowing, Albertsons said.