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Copyright 2000 The Houston Chronicle Publishing Company  
The Houston Chronicle

December 14, 2000, Thursday 3 STAR EDITION


LENGTH: 610 words

HEADLINE: Business briefs;
Nation & World

SOURCE: Staff, Bloomberg News, Reuters, Associated Press

P&G buys maker of power toothbrush

CINCINNATI - The Procter & Gamble Co. has agreed to buy Cleveland-based Dr. Johns Products, which makes a battery-powered toothbrush priced to compete with manual brushes. Terms of the deal, announced Wednesday, were not disclosed.

P&G, maker of Crest toothpaste and toothbrushes, expects the acquisition will more than double its annual toothbrush sales, currently at $ 75 million. The deal is expected to close within 30 days. The battery-powered brushes sell for $ 5 to $ 6, the company said.


FTC to meet today over AOL merger

WASHINGTON - After nearly a year of review, the Federal Trade Commission has set a meeting for today to decide whether to approve the proposed merger of America Online and Time Warner, taking a vote that officials said Wednesday remained too difficult to call.

There were signs throughout the agency that a number of the five commissioners had not made up their minds. The commissioners have been meeting with representatives of the companies' rivals and consumer groups, who have reported that several commissioners were wrestling with the decision.

Agency Chairman Robert Pitofsky was said to have asked lawyers representing those groups what the Internet marketplace might look like if the FTC approved the deal and how the market would look if it rejected it.


General Mills reports growth in earnings

CHICAGO - Cereal giant General Mills said Wednesday its fiscal second-quarter earnings rose 5 percent, in line with forecasts, as noncereal products posted strong volume gains and the company got a boost from a lawsuit settlement.

The maker of Cheerios and Wheaties said it earned $ 202.7 million, or 70 cents a share, in the quarter ended Nov. 26, compared with $ 193.7 million, or 62 cents a share, a year earlier. Second-quarter results included after-tax income of $ 4.8 million, or 2 cents per share, associated with General Mills' award from a class-action lawsuit related to price-fixing by vitamin manufacturers.


Vlasic Foods in financial pickle

CHERRY HILL, N.J. - Vlasic Foods International may seek bankruptcy protection if the sale of businesses or other measures don't generate enough funds to repay debt, the company said in a regulatory filing.

The maker of Vlasic Pickles and Swanson frozen foods is in discussions with potential buyers for the sale of all or parts of the company, the company said. It is unlikely that Vlasic will make the January interest payment on some senior credit agreements, it said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.


Chrysler may build Hyundais in U.S.

DETROIT - Chrysler, the struggling U.S. unit of DaimlerChrysler AG , is looking at using unused capacity at its North American plants to build vehicles made by South Korean affiliate Hyundai Motor Co., sources close to the situation said Wednesday.

Chrysler executives are racing to bolster operations at a unit that lost $ 512 million in the third quarter and may lose that much in the fourth. Germany's DaimlerChrysler bought a 10 percent stake in Hyundai in June for $ 428 million.


Contraceptives must be covered

WASHINGTON - It's against federal law for employers to exclude contraceptives from their health insurance plans when they cover other preventive treatments, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said Wednesday.

The decision directly affects only two women who complained to the commission, but it has implications for millions of others whose health insurance plans exclude birth control pills, diaphragms and other forms of prescription contraceptives.


NOTES: Bloomberg News, Reuters, the Associated Press and Chronicle staff contribute to this report.

LOAD-DATE: December 15, 2000

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