Rao offers stock in Internet firm STERLING HEIGHTS, Mich.—Duane Rao, former president and founder of Metro 25 Tire, will take his communications company public in late 1999 in a bid to become a large regional Internet provider.
Mr. Rao, president and chairman of Big Net Holdings, recently raised $5 million by selling 2.5 million stock shares in a private offering. He plans to use the money to hire more employees and expand the business to offer Internet service throughout the Great Lakes region, he said.
Big Net Holdings consists of two wholly owned subsidiaries—MetroCell, a cellular phone, paging and satellite TV operation, and Big Net, an Internet service and computer products provider. Mr. Rao has owned MetroCell for 15 years and began Big Net three years ago.
The two subidiaries combined posted $20 million in sales in 1998 and serviced 200,000 customers, Mr. Rao said.
Senate considers Y2K assistance
WASHINGTON—The Senate Small Business Committee has unanimously approved a bill to help small businesses financially in their efforts to correct year-2000-related computer problems.
Committee Chairman Christopher Bond, R-Mo., introduced the Small Business Year 2000 Readiness Act Jan. 27; it passed the committee Feb. 5.
The bill would require the Small Business Administration (SBA) to set up a limited-term loan guarantee program, ending Dec. 31, 2000, for small businesses needing money to make their computers Y2K-compliant. The SBA would market the program aggressively, so that businesses most in need would know it was available.
A similar bill passed the full Senate unanimously last year, Sen. Bond said, but the House failed to act on the legislation.
Merchant's unveils new management
MANASSAS—Merchant's Inc., which aims to double the size of its business within four years, has reorganized its management along divisional lines.
Under the new organizational structure, Carl R. Finamore, hired by the Manassas-based dealership in January, will be president of Merchant's newly created retail division. A 29-year-veteran of Sears, Roebuck and Co.'s Western Auto and former Parts America chains, he will focus on increasing Merchant's retail operations.
James Mathews, with Merchants since 1985 and previously its president, has become president of its new wholesale-commercial division.
Both men will report to CEO J. Michael Riggan, a former senior vice president of Pep Boys Inc., hired in September with the objective of increasing Merchant's sales to $600 million and its present 135 stores to 300 by 2003.
Strikes hurt Titan's earnings
QUINCY, Ill.—Ongoing labor strikes continue to hurt Titan International Inc., as its 1998 year-end net income plunged 67.6 percent from 1997 to $8.15 million.
Net sales for the year decreased 4.3 percent to $660.8 million.
Titan reported a fourth-quarter loss of $5.34 million compared with a profit of $4.1 million in the same 1997 period. Sales also fell 13.8 percent to $142.9 million.
Despite the disappointing results, Titan anticipates a stronger performance in 1999, said President and CEO Maurice Taylor.
``We have started production of our Grizz LSW assemblies for skid steers, and other Grizz applications are nearing production status," he said. "These assemblies are expected to increase both wheel and tire margins, enhancing 1999 company profitability.''
Tenneco may sell auto parts unit
GREENWICH, Conn.—Tenneco Inc. is talking with potential buyers about selling its auto parts unit for approximately $4 billion.
The firm has ``spoken with a number of parties'' about both its automotive and packaging businesses and hopes to find a ``strategic alternative,'' a spokesman said.
Consolidation within the automotive aftermarket, unseasonably warm weather and the Asian crisis all reduced Tenneco's fourth-quarter operating income by $25 million to $30 million, according to Chairman and CEO Dana Mead.
Tenneco makes ride control and exhaust systems and products under the Monroe and Walker brand names. Its products include Sensa-Trac shocks and struts, Rancho shocks, Walker Quiet-Flow mufflers and DynoMax performance exhaust products.
In January, Tenneco agreed to sell its containerboard business to Madison Dearborn Partners Inc. for $2.2 billion as part of its plans to reposition its packaging and automotive businesses.