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BUSINESS TODAY

TAMPA ELECTRIC WORKERS SAY NO: The union representing 928 of Tampa Electric Co.'s workers overwhelmingly rejected the company's final offer on a new three-year contract. Members of Local 108 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers voted 620-54 Monday to follow the recommendation of the Tampa union's negotiating committee, Local 108 business manager Floyd Suggs said. "We're willing to continue negotiating on the items we couldn't recommend," Suggs said, including a sharp drop in the company's contributions to the employee savings plan and its refusal to define a full-time work week as 40 hours. The current labor pact doesn't expire until March 31.

MANUFACTURING, CONSTRUCTION RISE: The Institute for Supply Management reported Monday that its manufacturing index rose to 57 last month from 53.7 in September. It was the fourth consecutive monthly gain and pushed the index to its highest level since January 2000, when it last registered 57. In Washington, the Commerce Department said the total value of building projects under way came in at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $910.6-billion in September, a 1.3 percent rise from August. The reading was an all-time monthly high, as was the figure for spending by private builders on housing projects, which rose to a rate of $471.4-billion.

SAVINGS BONDS RATES FALL: The government announced lower interest rates for the next six months for series I and EE savings bonds. The rate for I bonds issued from November through April is 2.19 percent, down from 4.66 percent. The rate for EE bonds issued on or after May 1, 1997, is 2.61 percent, down from 2.66 percent. More information, including earnings on bonds issued earlier, is available on the Internet (www.treasurydirect.gov).

TECO GETS IRS OKAY: TECO Energy Inc. said Monday the Internal Revenue Service has confirmed that its coal-based synthetic fuel operations comply with IRS requirements and are still eligible to collect federal tax credits. As a result, the Tampa utility said it has completed plans to sell a 49.5 percent stake in its synfuels operations for about $68-million in cash, although it withheld the name of the buyer. TECO spokeswoman Laura Plumb said TECO believes the IRS determination also will help in its plans to sell an additional 40 percent interest in the synfuels operations.

PARADYNE SETTLES SUIT: Paradyne Networks Inc. of Largo said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it has agreed to pay $3-million to settle a lawsuit filed by shareholders that accused top Paradyne officers of artificially inflating the company's stock price by misrepresenting its performance. Under the settlement, which must be approved by U.S. District Court in Tampa, the defendants admitted no liability. The $3-million will be paid by Paradyne's insurance company.

PUBLIX STOCK CLIMBS: Publix Super Markets' stock price shot up 10 percent Friday, from $42.25 to $46.50. The figures, announced on the employee stock line voice mail, weren't made public until Monday. Publix stock is not traded publicly and is sold only to employees and board members. It is evaluated quarterly by Raymond James Financial of St. Petersburg. The stock has not been priced above $46.50 since August 2001, when it was set at $47.50.

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