SEARS SUPPORT: Sears, Roebuck & Co. said its wholly owned finance subsidiary, Sears Roebuck Acceptance Corp., completed a new $3.5 billion syndicated bank facility. The committed 364-day revolving credit facility, which closed Monday, will replace SRAC’s current standby bank facility. The new one will be used to support its commercial paper program. The facility includes an option to extend the repayment of borrowings, if any, to February 2005. SRAC raises funds through the issuance of unsecured commercial paper and long-term debt.

TEAM SEVEN: Los Angeles-based denim resource Seven for all Mankind has hired two new designers from Levi Strauss and Gap. Stefano Aldighieri, former Levi’s design director for fabrics and finishes, is now Seven’s creative director. Also on board is Tim Kaeding, who was Gap’s head design director for the past four years, overseeing the women’s line. The new hires will work with Rebecca Danenberg, who joined Seven’s design staff in September 2001. Aldighieri and Kaeding fill in the void left when former Seven partner and designer Jerome Dahan left the company along with partner Michael Glasser in December, and filed a lawsuit against the third Seven partner, Peter Koral, for fraud, breach of fiduciary duty and breach of oral contract. The suit is still pending.

EU-VIETNAM TRADE ACCORD: The European Union has reached a three-year agreement with Vietnam to increase quotas on apparel and textiles in exchange for a reduction in tariffs on EU apparel and textile exports to Vietnam. The agreement, which must still be approved by the European Commission, would give Vietnam an increase in apparel and textile quotas worth $216.3 million a year and increase quotas by 50 percent on sensitive categories such as trousers or shirts, and up to 70 percent, on brassieres. In return, Vietnam has agreed to reduce its customs duties on EU apparel and textile imports progressively over the three years, beginning retroactively this year. Duties on apparel would be reduced to 20 percent by 2005, while duties on fabrics would be lowered to 12 percent, duties on yarns would be reduced to 7 percent and duties on fibers would be reduced to 5 percent. Those rates are less than half the duties Vietnam presently applies.

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