KRAFT TO ENTER IPO MARKET: Kraft Foods Inc. plans to raise as much as $5-billion by selling its stock to the public for the first time. The proposed initial public offering of the food and beverage unit of Philip Morris Cos. could potentially be among the largest ever in the United States. In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Kraft said it intends to use proceeds from the stock sale to retire debt owed to Philip Morris, which beefed up its food business last year with its $15.2-billion acquisition of cookie- and crackermaker Nabisco Holdings Corp. Kraft's products include Velveeta cheese, Ritz crackers and Oscar Mayer hot dogs. The company said its stock would be traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the KFT symbol.
BAYFRONT, RADIOLOGISTS AT
IMPASSE: The physician group that has provided radiology services at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg for more than 30 years may be leaving, due to an impasse on contract terms. Price Hoffman Stone & Associates will stop providing inpatient and outpatient radiology services for Bayfront patients in August unless a new agreement is reached. A hospital spokesman said Bayfront has requested proposals from groups that are interested in taking over its radiology department, which performs about 136,000 procedures a year, including CT scans, ultrasounds and mammograms. The Bayfront spokesman said Price Hoffman Stone could submit a proposal for the contract; Dr. Dan Stone declined to comment on his group's plans.
JUSTICE FILES HCA COMPLAINT: As expected, the Justice Department presented the final phase of its case against HCA-The Healthcare Co. late Thursday, filing civil complaints against the hospital chain. The complaints, based on eight whistle-blower suits, address issues that remain unresolved after months of negotiations. HCA, which has about 200 hospitals nationwide and nine in the Tampa Bay area, has already agreed to pay $840-million to settle several criminal and civil claims. The government accuses HCA of paying kickbacks to physicians for patient referrals, overcharging Medicare on hospital cost reports and billing for non-allowable expenses at its wound care centers. HCA said that the Justice Department's lawsuits do not introduce any new legal theories and that its discussions with the government will continue. Attorneys familiar with the cost reports said HCA's actions resulted in more than $400-million in alleged overpayments to the Nashville hospital chain.
XEROX FREEZES RAISES: Xerox Corp., which is battling steep financial losses, is postponing annual pay raises to most of its employees until July. About 45,000 of Xerox's 53,000 U.S. employees who are eligible to receive raises in April won't get them for three more months. The pay raises typically amount to 3 percent to 5 percent of employee's salaries. In the fourth-quarter, Xerox lost $119-million, compared with income of $294-million in the last three months of 1999.
OUTBACK ADDRESSES MEAT WORRIES: Reacting to growing consumer safety fears regarding European meat, Outback Steakhouse Inc. said it imports only baby-back pork ribs from Europe and has an eight-week supply already cleared for import. The United States recently banned pork and other meat imports from the European Union to prevent an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, which has infected livestock in England and France. The company's Outback Steakhouse and Carrabba's Italian Grill restaurants will use U.S. pork products if the ban on imports isn't lifted by the time supply runs out. Outback shares rose 25 cents to $24.25.
Danka Business Systems hopes to receive about $300-million by selling its Danka Services International unit. A story Thursday included an inaccurate figure.