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Bankruptcy records fall in 2002

For a second straight year, American public companies broke all bankruptcy records, as accounting fraud and massive debt left over from earlier spending sprees brought down 186 companies with a composite debt load of $259 billion.

That's the largest total ever, surpassing the 2001 total of $259 billion by $109 billion, or 42.1 percent, according to BankruptcyData.com, a bankruptcy tracking service.

Last year's jaw-dropping pile-up included five of the 10 largest bankruptcies ever, headed up by telecommunications giant WorldCom Inc. Other companies breaking into the Top 10 last year included Conseco Inc., Global Crossing Ltd., Adelphia Communications and UUAL Corp., parent of United Airlines.

Guilford Mills to delay filing of 10-K

Guilford Mills Inc. said it will be late filing its 10-K annual report for the fiscal year ended Sept. 29 because it only recently emerged from bankruptcy and has not yet completed its "fresh-start" reporting.

Under fresh-start accounting, a company's assets and liabilities are adjusted to fair value, and a reorganization value is placed on the company.

In a filing made last week with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission, Guilford said it plans to file the report by Jan. 15.

Guilford filed for Chapter 11 protection from its creditors in March, and emerged from bankruptcy early in October.

Restoration Hardware pares 4Q forecast

Specialty retailer Restoration Hardware Inc. has substantially pared its fourth-quarter earnings forecast as same-store sales in the all-important holiday season came in beneath expectation.

The 105-unit chain, based in Corte Madera, CA, said it now expects earnings of 25 to 30 cents per share, down from a November forecast of 41 to 42 cents a share. That's still a big improvement over the prior-year period, when the retailer recorded a loss of $1.53 a share.

Restoration Hardware said same-store sales were up between one to two percent for the nine-week holiday period, well beneath its earlier expectation of a gain in the mid-to-high single digits.

For the entire fourth quarter, the retailer said it now expects same-store sales to climb by two to four percent, way off an earlier target growth in the high-single to low-double digits.

Dillard's to post $16 million charge

Department store retailer Dillard's Inc. said it will post a $16 million non-cash charge against fourth-quarter profits to cover the cost of closing three stores in Kentucky and Alabama.

The Little Rock-based chain said it plans to close two underperforming stores in Louisville, KY, and another in Mobile, AL. Dillard's also said it plans to open six new stores in 2003 fiscal year, adding 930,000 square feet of space.

Job seekers see harsher climate

By a margin of two to one, job seekers have told national employment counselor Challenger, Gray & Christmas that it will be harder to find a job in the coming year than it was in 2002.

The international outplacement company conducted its 17th annual call-in offering job search advice during December, and 67 percent of job hunters said they think it's going to be more difficult to find a job this year. Only 33 percent said they expect it to be easier.

At the same time, two-thirds of job seekers, unsurprisingly, said they expect the economy to be the same or worse next year.

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