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Power deregulation takes center stage at Jackson hearings

A year ago, a proposed plan was drafted for the future deregulation of electric utilities in Mississippi. Last week, the second leg of public proceedings was conducted as utility companies, consumer organizations and other parties gathered to discuss the plan and its impact on Mississippians.

“Now is the time to write the rules for competition in Mississippi, and we see the process as another important step in that process,” said Don Meiners, president of Entergy Mississippi. “It is important for residential customers, business and industry and electricity providers to know what to expect and when to expect it.”

Among those who testified were Leroy Walker of the Alliance for Fair Competition, Hugh Larkin Jr. with Energy Consumers for Choice in Mississippi, a representative from Chevron and Meiners.

The hearings focused on what some see as sticking points to the plan, which Public Service Central District Commissioner Nielsen Cochran has dubbed the “Proposed Transition Plan for Retail Competition in the Electric Industry.” Among those issues are the impact on competition on community tax bases, continued reliability of service and the effect on rates for residential customers.

Southern District Commissioner George Byers voiced concern over not only the impact on residential customers, but the plan in general. “Even though the rates are capped, the total cost would not be. This plan is certainly not set in stone,” he said.

Cochran was more optimistic, and denied accusations from critics that the Public Service Commission has been stalling proceedings in order to try and kill the plan. “I am not in favor of deep-sixing this plan,” he said.

Federal Reserve president to speak at Building the Coast

biloxi — Jack Guynn, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, will be the keynote speaker for the fourth annual “Building the Coast: Development and Financing Symposium” Wednesday, April 29 at the Grand Casino Bayview Hotel.

Guynn will discuss the U.S. economy and give a forecast for 1998. Other speakers for the event include Thomas Cunningham, research officer and economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, who will give a perspective on the Southeast economy; Bill Huth, Director of the Gulf South Economic Research Center and State Economist Phil Pepper, state economist, Mississippi Institutions for Higher Learning, will discuss the Coast economy; and Michael Olivier, director of the Harrison County Development Commission, will present a forecast for Gulf Coast development.

Representatives from Wellman, HAM Marine, Gulfshores Retirement Communities, Deer Island Resorts Development, Beau Rivage and Crossroads Shopping Center will give reports on their projects.

Registration is $75 and includes breakfast and lunch for the event which will run from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Proceeds will benefit the Gulf South Economic Research Center. For reservations or additional information, call (228) 897-1122 or 1-800-449-0454.

BC/BS acquires KLLM building

Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi (BCBS) has acquired a new facility for its sales and marketing operations. The building is located at 3745 Lakeland Drive in Flowood, just west of the BCBS headquarters.

Richard J. Hale, president and CEO of BCBS said the reason for the acquisition was two-fold — creating more space in the main service center and greater visibility for the marketing staff and Bluebonnet Life.

First American holds busy shareholder`s meeting

nashville — First American Corp. (NASDAQ: FATN) held its shareholders meeting on Apr. 16, when it reported on the first quarter of 1998, declared a cash dividend and announced the approval of the merger with Deposit Guaranty National Bank.

First American reported diluted earnings of $.64 per share, up 14% over the first quarter 1997, and net income ending Mar. 31 of $37.6 million compared to $34 million for the same period in 1997.

The board of directors declared an increase in the quarterly cash dividend to $.25 per share, up from $.20. The dividend will be paid May 29 to shareholders of record as of Apr. 29.

In addition, shareholders of First American voted to approve the merger with Deposit Guaranty. “Our planned acquisition of Deposit Guaranty is proceeding as scheduled. We remain optimistic that the originally announced cost and revenue synergies will be achieved,” said Dennis C. Bottroff, First American chairman and CEO.

The merger was approved by Deposit Guaranty shareholders Apr. 14. The consummation of the deal is expected to be effective May 1, 1998.

Community Fed sees second quarter drop

tupelo — Community Federal Bancorp Inc. (NASDAQ: CFTP) recently gave its report on financial results for the second quarter of 1998 ending Mar. 31.

The company earned $734,000 for the quarter compared to $888,000. Basic earnings per share equaled $.18 per share, down from $.21. Diluted earning per share was reported at $.34 versus $.41 last year over the same period.

As of Mar. 31, Community Federal claimed total assets of $254 million and $60 million in stockholder`s equity. Book value was given at $14.76 with more than four million shares of common stock outstanding.

KLLM sees bright first quarter

KLLM Transport Services Inc. (NASDAQ: KLLM) reported improved results for the first quarter of 1998 ended Apr. 3.

Operating income rose from $351,000 to $1.73 million. Operating revenue from trucking operations was $59.2 million.

“Operationally, our company achieved its best quarter in several decades during the first quarter of 1998,” said Steven K. Bevilaqua, KLLM president and CEO. Bevilaqua pointed to dramatic reductions in KLLM`s cost structure, rate increases and lower fuel costs for the higher operating profit.

Halter to give schedule/telephone conference

gulfport — Halter Marine Group Inc. (AMEX: HLX) announced last week that it plans to issue a press release on earnings from the fourth quarter of fiscal year 1998, ended Mar. 31, after the close of trading Apr. 28.

Also, Halter said — in conjunction with the news release — it would conduct a telephonic conference with shareholders, analysts and other interested parties at 9 a.m. on Apr. 29. The toll-free number is 1-800-288-8975. Callers should ask for the Halter Marine Quarterly Earnings Conference.

A recording of the conference will be available Apr. 29-May 13. Call toll-free (800) 475-6701, and enter access code 388349.

Mississippi Chemical`s third quarter drops

yazoo city — Mississippi Chemical Corp. (NYSE: GRO) reported results from its third fiscal quarter ended Mar. 31.

Net income for the quarter was down to $.4 million compared to $10.6 million last year, on net sales of $125.8 million, down from $142.6 million in 1997.

Operating income decreased to $3.7 million, from $20.1 million in 1997. Earnings before interest, taxes depreciation and amortization slumped to $13.6 million, from $28.6 million last year.

Diluted earnings per share for the quarter were $.02 compared to $.38 in 1997.

“Fiscal 1998 has been challenging,” said Charles O. Dunn, president and CEO. Dunn added that adverse global supply and demand eroded Mississippi Chemical`s weighted average nitrogen price by 36%, but saw demand strengthening by the end of the quarter and predicted a strong fourth quarter.

ChemFirst announces first quarter earnings

ChemFirst Inc. (NYSE: CEM) announced net earnings for the quarter ended Mar. 31 of $9.8 million, or $.48 per diluted share, compared to $8.1 million and $.39 per share last year over the same period. Sales were “up slightly” to $111 million.

Peoples Holding report solid first quarter

tupelo — The Peoples Holding C

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