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Weekend Report: Kosovo Action Dominates the News

In Japan, the Tankan business-sentiment report signals a small improvement among large manufacturers.

Aside from the turmoil in Kosovo, what with the bombs dropping and refugees pouring into neighboring countries and all, there aren't a lot of material developments to report from this holiday weekend.

But in regard to Kosovo, the latest news is the Pentagon's announcement this evening that the U.S. will send 24 Apache helicopters and 2,000 ground troops into Albania to join the campaign. Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon said the announcement is "absolutely not" a harbinger of NATO ground troops being deployed in the Kosovo. He called it an "expansion of the air operation."

One wonders if those 2,000 troops and their families, not to mention Wall Street traders, will agree.

In Tokyo, the

Nikkei 225

average was trading up 192.73, or 1.2%, at 16482.92 shortly after Japan's


report was released Monday morning. While the closely followed survey of business sentiment signaled a small improvement among large manufacturers, as expected, the improvement was smaller than some forecasts called for, according to



On the business front, there were a few news tidbits to report.

French oil giant

Elf Aquitaine

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and Canda's

Bow Valley Energy

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head a consortium that reached an agreement with National Iranian Oil to develop the offshore Balal oilfield. The overall cost of the project is estimate at $300 million and planned output is 40,000 barrels a day by 2001, the companies said.

The U.S. has discouraged its allies from dealing with Iran, but with the aforementioned Kosovo entanglement, Uncle Sam is in no position to tell the French (or Canadians for that matter) who they can, and cannot, do business with. But given France's predilection for sticking it to the U.S. whenever it can -- remember the fighter jets that couldn't cross French air space on their way to Lybia a few years back? -- the timing of the deal is curious, at least.

Meanwhile, shipbuilder

Avondale Industries

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is preparing for the release of a highly critical report by federal safety inspectors that could come as early as Monday,



. Occupational Safety and Health Administration

inspectors have conducted a six-month probe of the New Orleans shipyard and found over 150 specific safety violations, and could levy a fine for as much as $600,000.

Philips Electronics

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late Friday extended its $777 million, or $17-per-share, hostile takeover bid for

VLSI Technology


to April 16. The offer was originally scheduled to expire April 1.

Also, on Friday,


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Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.

, its second-largest shareholder, plans to sell more than 25 million shares of the consumer products giant, thus having its stake in the firm.

Lernout & Hauspie Speech Products


restated its results for the first nine months of 1998 to a loss of $1.25 per share from $1.59. For full-year 1997, the company revised its loss to 41 cents from 97 cents originally reported. The revisions result from new

Securities & Exchange Commission

guidelines on write-offs for continuing research and development costs, the company said.

Minnesota Brewing


posted a fourth-quarter loss of 17 cents a share, a dime narrower than a year ago. No estimates were available. Moreover, the company said 1999 looks "difficult" and with its line of credit having expired Dec. 31, 1998, the company could not assure access to working capital.

Splash Technology

said that its


CFO, Joan Platt, had resigned.

General Motors'

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Hughes Electronics

unit won a $154 million settlement from the federal government, ending a 26-year-old legal battle over satellite-positioning technology.

Peritus Software


said president and CEO Dominic Chan had resigned.

In the Papers

The New York Times'

Money & Business section leads with a curiously critical view of the growing importance of employee stock options in Silicon Valley. As far as actionable articles, the "newspaper of record" offers a salutary look a beverage concern

Cadbury Schweppes


TheStreet Recommends

and not much else.

The Mutual Funds report, meanwhile, focuses on the trials and tribulations of value investors, as well as four fund managers who "won with technology."


also includes a focus on the long-suffering value fund sector, featuring an interview with Robert Friedman, who took over for famed value-dude Michael Price as chief investment officer of

Mutual Series

funds. Friedman's recommendations include


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Bank One

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, and

First Union



The weekly also offers additionally favorable coverage of

Lexmark International


, as well as

Reliant Energy

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, and furniture makers


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Kimball International



Herman Miller

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, and

HON Industries

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In a similar vein, Alan Abelson passes along some favorable comments on home-builders


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Standard Pacific


from another of his myriad "good buddies" on Wall Street, hedge fund manager David Wilson of

Keim Wilson Associates




offers a glowing review of mutual fund family

MFS Investment Management

, whose biggest holdings include

Computer Associates

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MCI WorldCom


, and

Tyco International