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CORPORATE EARNINGS

Choice One Communications' losses deepened in 2000, as the costs of building out its 29-city telecommunications business hit the bottom line. However, the Rochester-based company -- spotlighted by Barron's magazine for its high "burn rate" of funds -- called the results a strong finish. "We delivered on all our key operational objectives during the year while remaining fully funded for our 29 market business plan," CEO Steve Dubnik said in a statement. Though headquartered in Rochester, Choice Won has its largest business telephone market in Buffalo, as well as its Web design unit. The company, a competitive local exchange carrier or CLEC, sells voice and data services to companies in medium-sized cities. The company lost $217 million in 2000 on sales of $68 million. That compared with losses of $32.5 million on sales of $4.5 million the year before. Capital in place will fuel Choice One to profitability as it continues to win new business, Dubnik said. Fourth-quarter revenue grew 38 percent over the previous three months as the company sold 40,488 new access lines. Choice One had $213 million in cash and short-term investments at year end, and eight of its markets are generating positive core profits -- before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. The financial results came after the close of trading on an up day for Choice One. The Nasdaq-traded stock rose 37 1/2 cents to 14.12 1/2 on Tuesday.

MetLife Inc.'s fourth-quarter results were helped by a 20 percent surge in revenues. For the three months ended Dec. 31, the New York-based insurance powerhouse earned $591 million, or 74 cents per share, compared with $266 million or 34 cents per share, in the year-ago period. Excluding investment gains and a surplus tax credit of $175 million, Met Life earned $404 million, or 51 cents per share. In the year-ago period, also excluding items, Met Life earned $370 million, or 47 cents per share. Fourth-quarter revenue rose to $8.38 billion from $6.98 billion in the year-ago period. MetLife, through its subsidiaries and affiliates, serves about 9 million households in the United States and companies and institutions with 33 million employee and members.

Bob Evans Farms said Tuesday it earned 33 cents per share in its fiscal third-quarter, unchanged from a year earlier as severe weather conditions in December affected restaurant sales. For the quarter ending Jan. 26, the company reported sales of $255.4 million, up 8 percent from $236.3 million a year earlier. Net income was $11.5 million, down from $12.3 million, partly due to interest costs tied to the company's share repurchase program. In the restaurant segment, same-store sales for the quarter rose 2.5 percent. Total net sales for the segment were up 9 percent, though operating income fell 8 percent. As previously reported, same-store sales for the five weeks of December fell 1 percent. The company opened seven new restaurants during the quarter, which brings year-to-date openings to 15 and the total operating at the end of the quarter to 454. The target for the full fiscal year remains 30 new restaurants, and tentative plans call for a comparable number of openings in fiscal 2002.

Deere & Co. on Tuesday reported that higher sales and cost reductions helped boost its earnings by 50 percent in its first quarter. The agricultural machinery manufacturer earned $56.4 million, or 24 cents per share, in the three months ending Jan. 31, up from $37.7 million, or 16 cents per share, a year earlier. Revenues for the quarter increased 15 percent to $2.7 billion from $2.3 billion in the same period last year. Deere also said cost-cutting measures were working and pension and post-retirement benefit costs were down.

Chiquita Brands International posted a fourth-quarter loss of $88.9 million as sales continued to slump. For the three months ended Dec. 31, Chiquita lost $1.40 per share. In the year-ago period, Chiquita lost $77.8 million, or $1.25 per share. Excluding interest, taxes, depreciation and unusual items, Chiquita lost $16 million, compared with $22.4 million in the year-ago period. Sales dropped 15 percent to $528.5 million, from $618.7 million in the year-ago period. Chiquita blamed a strong dollar, higher fuel costs and lower banana sales in North America.

Applied Materials, the world's largest manufacturer of chip-making equipment, said its net income increased 77 percent to $558 million, or 66 cents per diluted share, for the three months ended Jan. 28, from $327 million, or 39 cents a share, for the same period a year ago. New orders, which indicate future sales, were $2.43 billion in the first quarter, down 1 percent from the $2.45 billion in the same period a year ago. The company has about 22,000 employees spread over 90 locations worldwide. The company began to feel the pinch of the U.S. economic downturn in January -- not long after the slowdown hit its customers, the manufacturers of computer processors, said James Morgan, Applied's chief executive. "While our company performed well, our business environment changed dramatically around us in just a few weeks," he told analysts after earnings were released Tuesday. To remain profitable during the downturn, the company announced several cost-cutting moves, including reductions in its temporary work force and five mandatory shutdown days in the second quarter.

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