CONE CUTS: Bankrupt Cone Mills Corp. said late Wednesday that it will close two North Carolina plants and cut back on denim production at a third, resulting in a loss of 625 jobs. The plants to be shuttered are the Cliffside Finishing and Haynes facilities, while manufacturing will be scaled back at the Cliffside Weave factory. All are located in Rutherford County. Chief executive John Bakane said the moves are being made to help Cone meet the challenge of an “unprecedented onslaught of cheap imports.”

INVESTMENT DIVESTMENT: Hampshire Group sold off certain assets of its Hampshire Investments subsidiary to K Holdings, a company controlled by Hampshire’s chairman and chief executive, Ludwig Kuttner, for 250,000 shares of Hampshire stock. The firm also sold all common stock of the unit to an investment group that included Kuttner, Hampshire director Peter Woodworth and treasurer Charles Clayton for 450,000 shares of Hampshire’s common stock. Shares of the firm closed down 38 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $33.77 in Nasdaq trading before the after-market announcement Wednesday. That closing price valued the investment business at $23.6 million. In all, the firm will incur losses from discontinued operations of roughly $6.5 million from the two transactions. The move was approved by a special committee of the firm’s board, made up of four independent directors, which had input from investment banking firm Shattuck Hammond Partners.

VF, DULY NOTED: Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services assigned an “A-minus” rating to VF Corp.’s proposed $300 million in senior unsecured notes maturing in 2033 and maintained its “stable” outlook on the Greensboro, N.C.-based apparel titan. The new notes will be used to repay commercial paper used to finance the acquisition of Nautica Enterprises, which, according to S&P analyst Jayne Ross, “provides VF with an upscale lifestyle brand to add to its diverse brand portfolio and other product categories, opportunities for cost savings and greater penetration in the department store and specialty channels. It’s crucial, she noted, for VF to “stabilize and revitalize the men’s sportswear business” at Nautica, and risks exist in the department store channel, “as it is unclear whether this channel will rebound when the U.S. economy does.”MMM, MMM, GOOD: Paul Charron, chairman and chief executive of Liz Claiborne, has been nominated to the board of directors of Campbell Soup Co. He’ll stand for election at the Nov. 21 annual meeting. Steris Corp. president and ceo Les Vinney also was nominated.

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