VISIT FLORIDA NAMES CEO: Bud Nocera, 53, has been named chief executive officer of Visit Florida Inc., the private company paid to be the state government's tourist marketing arm. A former marketing director for the Florida Aquarium in Tampa, Nocera has been Visit Florida's chief operating officer since 1997. Because car rental taxes that pay for tourist promotion are slumping, Visit Florida cut its budget by $3.3-million, to $18.3-million, for the coming fiscal year. As a result of budget shortfalls 26 of the agency's staff of 132 lost their jobs in January.
DANKA OFFERING COMPLETED: Danka Business Systems PLC said Wednesday it has completed an offering of $175-million in senior unsecured notes and closed a $50-million senior secured revolving credit facility that was a condition for completing the notes offering. The senior notes, due in 2010, have a fixed annual interest rate of 11 percent and an 11.5 percent yield to maturity. The St. Petersburg photocopier distributor and servicer said it used the net proceeds to repay the remaining $107.1-million of outstanding indebtedness under its existing credit facility and to redeem $47.6-million of its zero-coupon senior subordinated notes due April 1, 2004, at face value "as soon as reasonably practicable."
PLASMA CENTERS CLOSED: Baxter International announced Wednesday it will close 26 plasma collection centers and a plasma processing facility in Rochester, Mich., and cut about 2,500 jobs, or nearly 5 percent of its global work force, to boost profits. Its shares fell. The Deerfield, Ill., medical products maker said the center closings will cut the number of its collection centers to 94. The company announced it will take a $200-million charge in the second quarter in connection with the closing and severance costs.
ECKERD TO FILL GM PRESCRIPTIONS: General Motors Corp. employees and retirees will now be able to fill prescriptions through Eckerd Corp. The Largo drug chain signed an agreement with Medco Health, which administers the automaker's drug benefit. Eckerd has nearly 2,700 stores in 21 states.
AURORA GOES CHAPTER 11: Aurora Foods Inc., maker of Duncan Hines cake mixes, Aunt Jemima breakfast foods and Lender's bagels, said it will file for bankruptcy and replace its chief executive officer under a $200-million agreement with investor J.W. Childs Associates LP. Aurora plans to convert about $400-million in bond debt into stock and cash through a pre-negotiated Chapter 11 filing. J.W. Childs's investment would give the private equity firm a 65.6 percent stake in the reorganized company. Lawrence K. Hathaway will replace Dale Morrison as chief executive of the St. Louis company.
AUDIT FLUNKS SEC'S BOOKS: The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which polices bookkeeping at 15,000 publicly traded companies, fell short of accounting standards in its recording of employee costs, an internal audit said. The audit found "inappropriate balances" for salaries, expenses, employee benefit contributions and other accounts because of misclassifications in reports for fiscal 2002, ending last Sept. 30. The internal audit also noted problems with how the SEC tracks fees it collects from stock exchanges, its primary source of income. The SEC said it is spending $500,000 to correct the problems.
Catalina Marketing Corp. has asked Ernst & Young to review when certain revenues generated by Catalina's Health Resource unit should be recognized on the company's books. Catalina management raised questions that led to the assignment, not the company's auditors, as reported Tuesday. Catalina, which has delayed filing its annual report for the fiscal year ended March 31, will revise its previously announced earnings after the review.