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BUSINESS TODAY

Regal may shut 30% of cinemas

NEW YORK (Bloomberg) -- Regal Cinemas Inc. said it's considering shutting up to 30 percent of its theaters in a struggle to repay almost $2 billion of debt by cutting underperforming locations.

The chain, owned by buyout firms Hicks Muse Tate & Furst and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., has already shut 61 -- or 14 percent -- of its theaters, said Dick Westerling, a spokesman for Knoxville, Tenn.-based Regal, and could close 26 to 69 more.

Regal entered the Buffalo market in 1997 and now operates three stadium-style movie complexes in Buffalo, Orchard Park and Lancaster.

"We don't have a target number, but we continue to evaluate each individual theater" for profitability, Westerling said.

Last June, Regal operated 430 theaters with 4,485 screens. The company now has 375 with 4,219 screens.

Losses have piled up as construction of new theaters outstripped attendance growth. Net losses widened to $167.3 million in the first nine months of 2000 from $14.4 million in the same period of 1999.

Saturn leaves Japanese market

TOKYO (AP) -- Saturn, the American car developed by General Motors Corp. to compete against Japanese cars, is giving up on its rivals' home turf after three years of disappointing sales.

GM will stop selling Saturn coupes and sedans in Japan after this year and shift to pushing Chevrolet models, company spokesman Masaaki Gotsubo said today. The decision comes despite hefty investments GM has made to sell Saturn cars in Japan through advertising and setting up dealerships.

Eleven of the 22 Saturn dealers have decided to join GM's AutoWorld dealerships, begun last October in Japan. AutoWorld dealers, now totaling 21, sell Chevrolet, Isuzu and Suzuki models in addition to Saturn.

Saturn sales in Japan have been dismal, totaling 4,300 since April 1997. Sales in North America total 2.2 million since 1990.

AT&T keeps $3 billion of stock

NEW YORK (AP) -- AT&T plans to keep up to $3 billion worth of stock in its wireless business when it spins off that operation as an independent company.

The latest twist in AT&T's complex breakup plan is designed to help the company pay off more of its huge debt load, which peaked at nearly $62 billion in the fall, the company said Wednesday.

The change in plans means AT&T's shareholders will receive fewer shares of AT&T Wireless Group in the spinoff.

AT&T currently owns about 84 percent of the special "tracking" stock created last year to represent the performance of wireless business. Under the original breakup plan announced in October, all of those shares were to be distributed to AT&T investors.

The other 16 percent of AT&T Wireless is already publicly traded.

Berkshire buys into 3 firms

WASHINGTON (Bloomberg) -- Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway reported acquiring stakes in Mueller Industries, H&R Block, and Sealed Air Corp. in filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Mueller is a Memphis, Tenn., maker of copper, brass and aluminum plumbing fixtures. Berkshire reported holding 9.6 percent of Mueller's common stock. Berkshire disclosed an 8.4 percent stake in H&R Block, the No. 1 U.S. tax preparer, and a 5.7 percent stake in Sealed Air, a Saddle Brook, N.J., maker of protective and specialty packaging products.

Berkshire owns The Buffalo News and Buffett is the newspaper's chairman.

Amazon loses '1-Click' fight

SEATTLE (AP) -- A federal appeals court on Wednesday overturned a lower court ruling that barred bookseller Barnes and Noble's Internet store from using Amazon.com's online payment technology, pending a trial.

Amazon.com had argued that Barnes and Noble uses technology that is too similar to Amazon's patented "1-Click" system.

Hummer, Jeep collide in court

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -- General Motors Corp. and DaimlerChrysler Corp. filed competing federal lawsuits 11 minutes apart this week over a grille design intended for a new GM Hummer.

The Hummer H2 sport utility vehicle is scheduled to be launched next year. DaimlerChrysler contends the grille is too similar to Jeep's grille and will confuse consumers.

GM disagrees. "Any 10-year-old can tell the difference with or without the grilles," GM spokesman Brian Akre said Wednesday. "It's sort of like saying Arnold Schwarzenegger looks just like Mr. Rogers because both of them have nice smiles."

In other business news

The Labor Department reported today that initial applications for jobless benefits declined by 11,000 to a seasonally adjusted 352,000 for the work week ending Feb. 10.

The International Trade Commission, an independent federal agency, said U.S. corporations are selling more than twice as much overseas through their foreign subsidiaries as they are through exports from America. Sales by U.S.-owned foreign affiliates had topped $1.9 trillion by 1997, while exports by companies from the U.S. were less than half that amount, about $928 billion.

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