Virus spreads in guise
A computer virus pretending to be an electronic photo of teen-age tennis star Anna Kournikova overwhelmed e-mail servers throughout Europe and North America on Monday. The virus slowed down e-mail systems and forced some companies to shut down their e-mail altogether while they cleaned out the rogue program. Security experts said the virus does not permanently damage computers. Within a few hours, the virus had managed to spread almost as rapidly as last May’s ”I Love You” virus, which caused tens of millions of dollars in damages worldwide. Anti-virus researchers expected more computer infections during Tuesday’s business day in Asia.
Moody’s Investors Service Monday downgraded the long-term senior debt ratings of Pittsburgh-based PPG Industries Inc. The downgrade, from A1 to A2, affects $3 billion in debt securities. Moody’s said debt levels will not fall as rapidly as thought as the economy slows. PPG’s historic debt/capital range of 30-40 percent increased to 49 percent as it embarked upon an acquisition program. PPG acquired several coatings businesses in recent years to lessen its exposure to more cyclical and weaker segments in the glass industry. Moody’s confirmed the company’s short-term debt ratings as Prime-1 and said PPG’s outlook is stable.
Zefer, A Boston-based Internet consulting firm with a Pittsburgh office, said Monday it has laid off 120 workers, or 15 percent of its 800-person staff. The company twice withdrew plans for an initial public stock offering last year. Zefer has offices in Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, New York, Pittsburgh and London. Spokeswoman Sara Buda said the company had its first profitable quarter in the three months ended Dec. 31. She would not say how many people were let go in Pittsburgh, but said the company maintains an office of about 40 downtown. ‘We remain committed to the Pittsburgh market,’ she said.
The U.S. International Trade Commission Monday unanimously ruled that American companies may be harmed by artificially low-priced imports of stainless steel bars from six countries. The U.S. Commerce Department will now determine whether France, Germany, Italy, Korea, Taiwan and the United Kingdom illegally exported stainless steel bars used to make appliances, automobiles and hand railings, or if Italy illegally subsidized stainless steel. The complaint was filed in December by six companies and the United Steelworkers of America.
The median sales price of a house in the Pittsburgh region last year increased 6.5 percent, the National Association of Realtors said. That’s ahead of the national average increase of 4.9 percent. The preliminary average home sale in the region for 2000 is $93,600 vs. $89,900 a year ago. Nationwide, the median sales price was $139,100, up from $133,300. However, Pennsylvania ended 2000 with a 13.2 percent decrease in price, with a median of $168,500 compared to $177,900 in 1999.
Buchanan Ingersoll has acquired a boutique law firm in New York whose work includes some of the city’s best-known trophy buildings. The firm of CIPG – for ‘Construction Industry Practice Group’ – gives Buchanan 30 lawyers on its New York payroll. CIPG attorneys recently have provided legal services for the renovation of Grand Central Station, Lincoln Center and the Museum of Modern Art. Buchanan has law offices in eight U.S. cities and London.
Premier Technologies Inc. Monday said it will move to larger quarters at Parkway Center West in Robinson Township next month. The computer hardware and software company said it has been doubling in size for the last three years and will move from its current offices in Oakdale. Its new offices will accommodate more than 100 employees and will allow it to develop a state-of-the-art training facility.
From staff reports, The Associated Press, Dow Jones News, Reuters, Gannett and Bloomberg News.
Shares of Zale Corp., the nation’s largest specialty jewelry retailer, fell Monday on news that its top executive resigned and the company was delaying its quarterly financial results. Chairman and CEO Beryl Raff, one of the few women to lead a major U.S. retailer, was replaced by former Zale boss Robert J. DiNicola. The company said Raff, 50, resigned to spend more time with her family. Zale operates about 2,300 stores and kiosks such as Zales, Bailey, Banks & Biddle, and Piercing Pagoda kiosks.