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WestPoint delays exit from Chapter 11

WestPoint Stevens is pushing back until later this year its planned exit from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as it hammers out a new business plan and strategy for functioning in a rapidly shifting global marketplace.

The company had earlier said it hoped to emerge from bankruptcy some time during the second quarter. Now the company says it's pushing back the date to revise the business plan it will ultimately present to creditors and a bankruptcy court judge to accommodate shifts in international sourcing.

M.L. "Chip" Fontenot, president and CEO, commented, "While we are sensitive to the desire to exit bankruptcy as quickly as possible, it is more important to conclude this process with a sound strategic vision that will ensure WestPoint Stevens' long-term competitive position in a rapidly changing global market. This additional time will allow the company to revise its business plan accordingly."

WestPoint, Fontenot added, "remains committed to its high level of customer service and product innovation, and continues to enjoy ample financial flexibility."

At the same time, the company reported that the U.S. Bankruptcy Court has extended through July 29 the company's exclusive right to file a plan of reorganization, a routine occurrence for a company working its way through bankruptcy. WestPoint filed for Chapter 11 protection on June 1, 2003.

Costco to pay a first-ever dividend

Costco Wholesale Corp., based in Issaquah, Wash., said it will pay its first-ever common stock dividend, 10 cents a share, on May 31 to shareholders of record as of May 10. Going forward, the retailer said it expects dividends to total 40 cents for each fiscal year.

"This dividend demonstrates our confidence in the company's long-term growth potential and financial strength," said Jim Sinegal, president and CEO. "We are pleased to be able to return capital to our shareholders, and to do so while we continue aggressively to pursue the opening of new locations."

Costco now operates 433 warehouses; including 320 in the United States and Puerto Rico, 63 in Canada, 15 in the United Kingdom, five in Korea, three in Taiwan, four in Japan and 23 in Mexico. The retailer plans to open seven to nine new warehouses before the end of its fiscal year on August 29.

Unifi halts joint venture talks, to go it alone

Unifi Inc., a Greensboro, N.C.-based polyester yarn producer, has ceased joint venture talks with two Chinese polyester companies, and said instead it will go it alone in a "greenfield" operation, building its own plant in China from scratch.

Unifi had expected to own a majority stake in both companies under the terms of the joint venture, but said recently the companies were not in a position to close on the deal in the near term. That, and required Chinese regulatory approvals, "could extend the closing well into the next calendar year."

Now, the company said, it will create a wholly owned subsidiary to produce its value-added yarns in China. Site selection is underway, and a location will be announced soon, said Unifi.

S&P raises Dollar General outlook to positive

Standard & Poors' Rating Services said it has revised its outlook on Dollar General Stores, based in Goodlettsville, Tenn., to positive from negative after the company settled accounting issues with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The retailer's corporate credit was affirmed at "BB+."

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