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WICHITA, Kan.

Harrah’s, MGM Mirage push for endorsements

Two of the gambling industry’s leading companies are courting Mulvane city officials, hoping to land endorsements they need to keep proposed casino projects alive.

Harrah’s Entertainment and MGM Mirage, both based in Las Vegas, can’t compete for a state contract to build and operate a casino for the Kansas Lottery in Sumner County unless they have the endorsement of local officials.

So far, the Sumner County Commission hasn’t endorsed proposals they’ve made for hotel-casino complexes at the Mulvane exit of the Kansas Turnpike. But the county commission’s endorsement won’t be necessary if Mulvane annexes their proposed sites and the city backs their projects.

The City Council annexed the Harrah’s site Monday; MGM Mirage has asked to have its site annexed, too.

Harrah’s and MGM Mirage’s proposals are competing with two other projects proposed off the turnpike’s Wellington exit, 14 miles to the south. The county commission endorsed the Wellington proposals last month.

Those proposals are competing with Wellington projects proposed by Penn National Gaming, of Wyomissing, Pa., and Marvel Gaming of Las Vegas. Penn National’s proposal is $365 million, and Marvel’s is $390 million.

Winter-blend fuel demand lifts ethanol

Ethanol in Chicago advanced on higher demand for winter-blend gasoline in mandated and discretionary markets.

New York, Chicago and other major cities require the additive in gasoline at all times. Phoenix, Las Vegas, Denver and several other cities mandate use only during cold-weather months.

Denatured ethanol for February delivery rose 0.8 cent, or 0.4 percent, to settle at $2.21 a gallon at 1:15 p.m. on the Chicago Board of Trade.

In spot-market trading, ethanol on the U.S. Gulf Coast surged 6 cents, or 2.5 percent, to $2.51 a gallon, the highest since it fetched $2.60 on March 16. In New York, it rose 2.5 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $2.385; on the West Coast, the fuel advanced 2.5 cents, or 1 percent, to $2.45, the highest since March, 30.

Ethanol in the Chicago spot market slid 2 cents, or 1 percent, to $2.25 a gallon.

MINNEAPOLIS

Target says chief exec will retire on May 1

In a long-expected move, Target Corp. said Wednesday that Chief Executive Bob Ulrich will retire May 1 and be replaced by President Gregg Steinhafel.

Ulrich, 64, will remain as chairman of the nation’s second-largest discount retailer through the end of fiscal 2008. He has been with the company that became Target since 1967 and has been chairman and CEO since 1994.

The company said that during Ulrich’s tenure, it has nearly tripled its sales and U.S. stores, and profits have jumped almost ninefold.

Sierra Health plans layoffs at LV office

Sierra Health Services is planning layoffs at its Southwest Medical Associates physicians’ practice in Las Vegas.

The company will release about 30 workers from Southwest Medical Associates’ 1,200-worker staff within 60 days to 90 days, said Peter O’Neill, Sierra Health’s vice president of public and investor relations.

The reduction in force results from the phase-out of a federal “social HMO” program that allowed a handful of health plans around the nation to provide special services to elderly patients. The services, which included transportation to and from doctors’ appointments, in-home domestic care and counseling, aimed to keep seniors out of assisted living and in their homes.

Targeted in the layoffs are Southwest Medical Associates’ geriatric department and managers related to the social HMO program. O’Neill said Southwest Medical plans to absorb the program’s geriatric patients into its primary practice.

Southwest plans to cut 57 round-trip flights

Southwest Airlines Co., concerned that fuel prices are rising and the U.S. economy is slowing, will cut 57 round-trip flights from its schedule while adding service in higher-demand markets such as Denver.

The carrier will reduce daily flights from some of its largest markets, including Chicago, Las Vegas and Phoenix, without eliminating service between any cities. Daily departures from Denver will rise by 18, or 32 percent, starting May 10 as part of 40 total additions, the airline said Wednesday.

Southwest, the busiest carrier at McCarran International Airport, has trimmed 2008 capacity growth to as much as 5 percent from 8 percent because of concern that travel demand may decline in a weaker economy.

Southwest is dropping, at most, two daily trips between affected cities.

British Airways plans to launch new airline

In a move that could heat up competition for transatlantic passengers, British Airways said Wednesday it would launch a new airline in June that would offer nonstop flights between New York and cities in the European mainland.

The London-based carrier said the new airline, which would cater to business and affluent leisure travelers, would be named OpenSkies and begin with service either to Brussels, Belgium, or Paris.

If British Air picks Paris, the route would come on the heels of a new nonstop service that its European archrival, Air France, is to begin in March between Los Angeles International Airport and London’s Heathrow Airport, British Airways’ main hub.

PITTSBURGH

Profits up 76 percent for aluminum maker

Aluminum producer Alcoa said Wednesday its fourth-quarter earnings soared 76 percent, buoyed by the pending sale of its packaging and consumer businesses.

Net income rose to $632 million, or 75 cents per share, for the three months ended Dec. 31, from $359 million, or 41 cents per share, during the same period a year earlier.

The earnings included a favorable restructuring adjustment and tax benefit totaling $323 million, or 38 cents per share, mostly stemming from the company’s recent agreement to sell the packaging and consumer businesses.

Revenue fell 5.7 percent to $7.39 billion from $7.84 billion.

NEW YORK

Treasury prices decline after Fed official talks

Treasury prices slid Wednesday after a Federal Reserve official predicted stronger economic growth .

The benchmark 10-year Treasury note dropped 0.09 points to 103.75 with a yield of 3.79 percent, up from 3.78 percent in late trade Tuesday, according to BGCantor Market Data. Earlier in the day the 10-year yield declined to 3.77 percent, its lowest standing since June 3, 2005.

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