Business Highlights

Gold Kist shareholders back

takeover bid, Pilgrim's Pride says

•PITTSBURG, Texas - Pilgrim's Pride Corp., the nation's second-largest poultry producer, said Thursday that its hostile bid for Atlanta-based Gold Kist Inc. is supported by owners of most of the rival's shares.

Pilgrim's Pride said Gold Kist shareholders tendered 34.2 million shares or 67 percent of the company's stock in support of Pilgrim's Pride's $1 billion offer - $20 per share - by the end of Wednesday.

Pilgrim's Pride announced in August it would bid for Gold Kist, the nation's No. 3 poultry company, and it began the tender offer in September. Gold Kist has said it wants to remain an independent company and has taken legal action to ward off the bid.

Delta Air Lines reports narrower

$88 million loss for October

•ATLANTA - Delta Air Lines Inc., which is operating under bankruptcy protection, reported Thursday that it narrowed its loss in October to $88 million.

The nation's third-largest carrier said its loss was equivalent to 45 cents a share in the 31-day period and was smaller than its loss of $301 million for the same month last year. It did not provide a per-share figure for the loss a year ago.

Excluding reorganization items, Delta said its latest loss was $64 million.

Delta recorded revenue of $1.43 billion in October, according to a filing with the bankruptcy court. The airline did not provide a revenue figure for the same month a year ago.

US Airways, Delta, creditors

meet for first time on takeover bid

•ATLANTA - US Airways Group Inc. spent several hours Thursday trying to explain to Delta Air Lines Inc. and the bankrupt carrier's unsecured creditors committee why its $8.5 billion offer to buy Delta would be better than Delta's standalone plan.

US Airways officials, Delta executives and representatives of Delta's creditors committee were present for the meeting in New York, the sides' first since the bid was announced Nov. 15, Tempe, Ariz.-based US Airways said in a statement.

The company's chief executive, Doug Parker, said there were discussions about many facets of the proposal during the meeting. He did not elaborate on how long the meeting lasted, what was said or what kind of reception US Airways received.

Wal-Mart predicts Dec. same-store sales gain of zero to 1 percent

•NEW YORK - Wal-Mart Stores Inc. issued a sobering warning for the holiday shopping season Thursday, predicting its December same-store sales gain would be no better than 1 percent.

The news, coupled with Wal-Mart's expected announcement that it suffered its first same-store decline in more than 10 years during November, came as the nation's retailers reported an overall mixed sales performance for the month. Same-store sales reflect business at stores open at least a year and are the industry standard for measuring a retailer's strength.

Rates on 30-year mortgages dip

to lowest level since January

•WASHINGTON - Mortgage rates around the country fell this week, with rates on 30-year mortgages dipping to the lowest level since January.

Mortgage giant Freddie Mac reported Thursday that 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages averaged 6.14 percent, down from 6.18 percent last week. That was the lowest rate since the week of Jan. 26, when 30-year mortgage rates averaged 6.12 percent.

It marked the third straight weekly decline in rates, a development that economists attributed to easing inflation pressures as the overall economy slows, held back by a huge drop in housing activity.

Rates on 30-year mortgages have been steadily declining since they peaked at 6.80 percent in late July.

- From wire reports