archived Jan. 8, 2007

State OKs smaller Allstate rate hikes

TALLAHASSEE  — Allstate has gotten the state’s OK to hike homeowners insurance rates. But not quite in the amount it originally wanted.The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation on Tuesday approved 8.2 percent hikes for the company’s two Florida-only subsidiaries. The new rates go into effect on Feb. 11.Allstate Floridian and Allstate Indemnity originally requested average statewide increases of 22.5 and 33.2 percent, respectively.  Following a public hearing on Nov. 2, the company lowered the rate requests to 19.1 percent for Allstate Floridian and to 26.4 percent for Allstate Indemnity.  OIR cited problems with Allstate’s original and revised filings, including charging customers for reinsurance the company had not yet bought, using any unexpected revenue gains to pay agents and increasing its expense ratio even though it is cutting 240,000 policies.“There was little or no support for numerous aspects of this rate hike in both the original filing and in the amended filing,” Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty said, “and the responses we received at the public hearing were not much better.  However these filings reflect rates that the office determined were justified.”Allstate Floridian last increased its rates by a statewide average of 16.3 percent and Allstate Indemnity last increased its rates by a statewide average of 24.4 percent in October 2005.

Nacco Industries sues Applica again over their failed merger attempt

MIRAMAR — The battle for kitchen appliance maker Applica Inc. got a little hotter Tuesday, as jilted suitor Nacco Industries of Cleveland filed suit in federal court in an attempt to block a rival from taking over the company.It’s the second  time in the last two months that Nacco has sued Applica over their failed merger attempt.Meanwhile, Applica said it has sent out letters to shareholders urging them to reject Nacco’s hostile bid of $6.50 a share and instead vote to sell the company to Harbinger Capital Partners, which is also offering $6.50 a share. Harbinger already owns about 40 percent of Applica.Nacco, among other things, makes kitchen appliances under the Hamilton Beach and Procter Silex brands. Applica’s best known label is Black and Decker.  Last July, Applica’s board agreed to a sale of the company to Nacco for $6 a share. Nacco also would pick up Applica’s debt, making the deal worth about $160 million.Applica broke off the deal in October, going instead with a matching offer from Harbinger. Nacco sued in Delaware state court, then upped its per share offer for the company by 50 cents.Applica shareholders are scheduled to vote on Harbinger's offer on Dec. 28.

Judge penalizes two men for fraud scheme involving two penny stocks

MIAMI — A federal court judge has hit two penny stock investors with financial penalties totaling about $2 million for their roles in manipulating the shares of two Pink Sheet companies, including one based in Boca Raton.Judge William Zloch orderd Donald Oehmke of Kalamazoo, Mich., to cough up $1.1 million in illegal profits, $101,000 in pre-judgment penalties and $250,000 in fines for manipulating shares of Concorde America of Boca Raton and a North Carolina company called Absolute Health.Zloch ordered Bryan Kos of Montreal to pay to surrender $500,000 in illegal profits, 29,000 in pre-judgment interest and $120,000 in fines for his role in manipulating the same stocks.The Securities and Exchange Commission sued both men last February, alleging that they had issued unauthorized and false press releases for the two companies in order to boost demand for the shares. Oehmke, according to the SEC, made nearly $21 million from the scheme; Kos nearly $7 million.Concorde supposedly recruited Latin American workers for European companies. Absolute Health owned fitness clubs.In one case, Concorde issued a press release claiming that it had a contract to supply Spain with 200,000 workers. Concorde at the time had no operations and could not fulfill such a contract even if it wanted to, according to the SEC’s lawsuit.

Carnival exercises option for ship

MIAMI — Carnival Corp. said Monday that it has exercised an option to build a 130,000-ton ship for its Carnival Cruise Lines brand.Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri will build the new vessel, which will have 3,652 lower passenger berths, for about 565 million euros, or $687 million. The ship is scheduled for delivery in summer 2010.The ship will be a sister ship to a previously announced 130,000-ton vessel slated to enter service in fall 2009 that will begin a new class for the line. The two ships will be the largest ever constructed for Carnival.Carnival Cruise Lines now has four new ships on order or under construction with Fincantieri.Corporate-wide, Carnival Corp. now has 19 new ships on order, of which Fincantieri is building 13.

Tourism spending falls, tighter airport security measures blamed

WASHINGTON — Real tourism spending declined at an annualized rate of 1.7 percent during the third quarter most likely because of tighter airport security measures, the Commerce Department announced Thursday.

It was the first decline in real spending since the third quarter of 2002.

According to the Commerce Department report, spending on air travel declined 11.6 percent during the third quarter after rising 11.6 percent during the second quarter. Spending for traveler accommodations also fell.

The report notes that stricter security measures concerning carry-on items were put in place during the second week of August, likely contributing to the decline in air travel.

The report also notes that while tourism declined during the quarter, the overall economy grew at a 2.2 percent annual rate.

Tourism employment grew at 0.1 percent during the second quarter, compared with 1.8 percent for the economy as a whole.


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