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BRIEFLY

SRI CHOOSES CEO: Joseph A. Largey will become chief executive of SRI/Surgical Express Inc. in Tampa on Dec. 1. The search began after Richard Isel, SRI's founder and previous chief executive, retired in midAugust. Largey left a job as president and chief executive of medical laser equipmentmaker Spectranetics Corp. in Colorado Springs, Colo., in early May. His career includes marketing experience with Johnson & Johnson as well as Picker International, a health care distributor.

UNITED REFINANCING PLAN IN WORKS: Fearing the consequences if United Airlines files for bankruptcy, a coalition of a dozen leading global banks is crafting a refinancing plan for about $7-billion in leases on United's fleet of planes, the New York Times reported. The banks include European, Japanese and American lenders who hold leases on virtually every plane that United flies. The effort, which could result in a deal as early as next week, might provide United with another tool in its bid to secure $1.8-billion in federal loan guarantees.

DISNEY APPEAL ON POOH DOCUMENTS DENIED: Walt Disney Co. can't keep a jury from being told that it destroyed documents relating to the Winnie the Pooh royalties case, a California appeals court ruled. The 11-year-old dispute over how much Disney owes to Stephen Slesinger Inc. of Tampa for sales of Winnie the Pooh merchandise is scheduled for trial in March. The California Court of Appeal in Los Angeles refused to hear Disney's appeal, saying that non-monetary sanctions can't be contested until the end of trial.

ARREST MADE IN INSURANCE CASE: Michael E. Rock, 33, of Orlando was arrested on charges of soliciting thousands of Florida doctors to purchase fraudulent medical malpractice insurance. Rock is being charged with grand theft, organized fraud and unlawful transaction of insurance in his sale of insurance through Embassy Bonding and Surety Ltd. Embassy is a New Zealand company with an office in Illinois; it does not have a certificate to sell insurance in Florida. Department of Insurance investigators said Rock solicited nearly 10,000 doctors and received payments from several doctors of more than $150,000 for coverage. The Department of Insurance also has ordered a second entity, Physicians Exchange Association, to stop soliciting business in the state. Rock could not be reached for comment.

TECO COMPLETES BOND OFFERING: TECO Energy Inc. said it has completed a previously announced $380-million bond offering. The notes, which were marketed by Credit Suisse First Boston, had an interest rate of 10.5 percent and were issued at 92.68 percent of face value, resulting in proceeds of $352-million, before fees. TECO shares closed Thursday at $13.71, up 21 cents, or 1.6 percent.

ORGANIZED LABOR TARGETS WAL-MART: Organized labor launched a major offensive against Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the United States' largest retailer and an emphatically nonunion employer, by staging rowdy protests outside 400 stores nationwide. The protesters claim the giant chain's emphasis on low prices comes at the expense of employees' wages and benefits, and also drives down labor standards in global manufacturing. The labor offensive comes as Wal-Mart, which employs more than 1-million workers in about 3,300 U.S. stores, expands aggressively into the highly unionized supermarket business.

USA INTERACTIVE BUYING ENTERTAINMENT PUBLICATIONS: USA Interactive, the electronic-commerce company controlled by Barry Diller, agreed to buy Entertainment Publications Inc. for $370-million in cash and stock from a group of investors led by the Carlyle Group. The company publishes the Entertainment Book that includes coupons and discounts from local and national companies, including restaurants and hotels. The transaction, expected to be completed no later than the first quarter, will add to USA's earnings in 2003, the company said in a statement. It wasn't more specific.

GE LOWERS EARNINGS FORECAST: General Electric Co. lowered its earnings forecast for the year by 8.5 percent, saying it will boost reserves and take a charge in a struggling reinsurance unit. But GE also announced a dividend increase and said profits for next year would grow between 3 percent and 13 percent despite weaknesses in industries such as airlines and power systems that are important businesses for GE. Its stock rose 8.3 percent, or $2.05 a share, to close at $26.85.

SUGAR EXEC OUSTED: Longtime U.S. Sugar Corp. executive James Terrill has been ousted from his job in a reorganization at the Clewiston company where he worked for more than three decades. Terrill, 58, has been the company's executive vice president for sugar since 1990. He could not be reached for comment. U.s. Sugar employs about 2,500 in its sugar division and 500 in its Southern Gardens Citrus arm.

Earnings

Dillard's Inc.

The Little Rock, Ark., department store chain posted a narrower loss for its fiscal quarter ended Nov. 2 amid cost controls, even as sales edged lower.

3rdQtr Year Ago

Revenue $1.86-bil $1.93-bil

Net Income -$5.1-mil -$40.1-mil

Per Share -6 cents -48 cents

Stein Mart Inc.

The Jacksonville retailer said improved inventory management reduced its losses for the quarter ended Nov. 2.

3rdQtr Year Ago

Revenue $332.8-mil $304.4-mil

Net Income -$3.8-mil -$5.8-mil

Per Share -9 cents -14 cents

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