PROCESSORS SAID TO VIOLATE RULES FOR PREVENTING BSE
violation of rules enacted to prevent the spread of mad cow disease, a food inspectors' union has alleged. The National Joint Council of Food Inspection Locals has said that despite a U.S. Department of Agriculture ban on "specified risk materials," including nervous system and other tissues thought most likely to harbor the disease, many plants were still not in compliance with the removal and disposal procedures passed into law in January after the first case of mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, was discovered in the United States in December 2003. USDA and beef industry officials have denied the accusation, contending that procedures are being followed, and that SRMs have not entered the human food supply. Since March 2003, USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Services division has conducted inspections of certain processing facilities to ensure that SRMs, such as spinal cord tissue, are not present in U.S. beef.
ALBERTSONS RENEWS $500M STOCK REPURCHASE PROGRAM
BOISE, Idaho -- The board of directors of Albertsons here has renewed authorization of a program to re-purchase up to $500 million of the company's stock during 2005, the company said. The authorization renews a $500 million stock-buyback program adopted a year ago and expiring on Jan. 31. However, the company did not repurchase any stock during the 2004 program, and said the timing and quantity of stock repurchases during 2005 will be at the discretion of management. In a separate announcement, Albertsons said its directors declared a quarterly dividend of 19 cents a share, payable in February.
WINN-DIXIE TO PAY OUSTED CEO LAZARAN $6.9 MILLION
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Frank Lazaran, the ousted chief executive officer of Winn-Dixie here, is leaving the company with $6.9 million in cash and 900,000 shares of stock, the company said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. Lazaran, who was replaced by former Albertsons executive Peter Lynch earlier this month, will receive health care for three years and agreed not to solicit Winn-Dixie customers or employees, or compete with the company, for a three-year period. Incoming CEO Lynch, the filing added, will receive a base salary of $900,000, which can be matched with certain performance bonuses. Lynch also received an option to purchase 500,000 shares of Winn-Dixie stock, He will receive an option to buy another 500,000 shares in July.
REPORT: ACQUISITION ACTIVITY HIGHEST IN FOUR YEARS
Washington -- An improving economy has accompanied a jump in merger activity, a Washington Post report said, noting the current quarter has been the busiest takeover season in more than four years. Companies have spent $576 billion on acquisitions since October, the most since the second quarter of 2000 when $761 billion in deals were announced, the report added. Recent deals in the cellular phone, consumer product and energy industries have led the spate of recent mergers, which the report noted have been sparked by a recovering stock market and anticipation of global economic growth.
SEARS-KMART MERGER 'NOT QUITE A DONE DEAL'
NEW YORK -- Kmart's acquisition of Sears is "not quite a done deal," and could be undone if real-estate investment trust Vornado Realty Trust and a private equity partner team up for a better offer, according to a research report published by Citigroup Smith Barney here. According to Citigroup analyst Jonathan Litt, Sears' real-estate value is between $8 billion and $10 billion, which could inspire New York-based Vornado, which owns a 4.2% stake in Sears, to seek a bid for Sears that exceeds Kmart's $11 billion deal to acquire Sears announced last month. One possible outcome, Litt noted, would be for Vornado to swap its stake in Sears for certain of its real-estate assets. Vornado is reportedly teaming with private equity firm Bain Capital to bid for retailer Toys "R" Us.