CATALINA REPORTS ON QUARTER: Catalina Marketing Corp. said Thursday that its cash flow rose 34 percent to $32-million in the third quarter ended Dec. 31 compared to the same quarter a year ago. The St. Petersburg electronic marketing company reported that its coupon printers were installed in 17,582 U.S. supermarkets, a modest increase of 249 stores, and 15,813 drugstores, a decline from 17,686 at the end of the year-ago quarter. Catalina also recently signed a deal to install its machines in 103 Wild Oats natural food supermarkets. Catalina, which has delayed filing audited financial statements in fiscal 2004, provided the limited operating results in lieu of reporting quarterly earnings until its 2003 results are audited.
S&P'S ITALIAN OFFICES SEARCHED: Italian police searched the Milan office of ratings company Standard & Poor's on Thursday as prosecutors studied what financial organizations knew about dairy giant Parmalat's shaky finances before the fraud scandal exploded. The ratings company said it was not under investigation in the case, but had itself been victim of an apparent "massive case of fraud and deception." Parmalat acknowledged on Dec. 19 that nearly 4 billion euros (about $5-billion) of company money were not, in fact, held in a Bank of America account as it had previously claimed _ an admission that set off the scandal. Up to two weeks earlier, Standard & Poor's had an investment grade rating on Parmalat credit, which it slashed to junk status on Dec. 10.
MOTOROLA TO CLOSE FLA. PLANT: Motorola Inc. said Thursday it plans to close a Boynton Beach plant where cell phones are designed by the end of the year, a move that will cost 240 people their jobs. The closing affects a total of 375 jobs, company spokeswoman Jo Posti said. Motorola has offered other employment to 135 of the affected workers at other company offices but the remaining employees will lose their jobs. Workers were told Wednesday of the decision, Posti said. Laid-off workers will receive a severance package.
PENNEY SHUTS CALL CENTER: J.C. Penney Co., parent of the Eckerd drugstore chain based in Largo, plans to close a telemarketing center in Austin, Texas, cutting 475 jobs, and will take over management of six warehouses to reduce costs. The moves will reduce fourth quarter profit by about 4 cents a share, J.C. Penney said in a statement. The company still expects net income to rise to 80 cents a share, including the costs, spokesman Quinton Crenshaw said. J.C. Penney will have nine call centers after closing the Austin location in the second quarter.
BURGER KING DUMPS AD AGENCY: Burger King Corp. fired its lead creative advertising agency Thursday in the latest marketing shake-up for the No. 2 fast-food chain as it attempts to boost sluggish sales. Crispin Porter + Bogusky was named to replace WPP Group's Young & Rubicam Inc. in handling the Miami-based restaurant chain's estimated $320-million account, effective immediately. The reconfiguration of Burger King's advertising roster is the company's fifth since 2000. The companies did not announce when new ads would be launched, or say what the theme of a new ad campaign might be.
MARKETWATCH COMMENTATOR QUITS: Veteran business journalist Thom Calandra resigned as chief commentator for online financial news publisher MarketWatch.com Inc. Thursday, prodded by an informal regulatory inquiry into stock trades dating back to late 2002. Calandra submitted his resignation after missing a deadline Wednesday to submit his trading records to MarketWatch, which began its own investigation after learning of the Securities and Exchange Commission's, said Larry Kramer, the San Francisco company's chief executive officer. MarketWatch, which isn't a part of the SEC inquiry, had planned to turn the records over to the securities regulators.