KARSTADTQUELLE STOCK DROP: Shares of KarstadtQuelle hit a two-year low on Monday in reaction to comments about a possible bankruptcy made by the vice chairman of the crisis-ridden retail and catalogue group’s supervisory board, Wolfgang Pokriefke. Shares closed at 11.50 euros, or $14.26 at current exchange, down 8.5 percent, or 1.07 euros, equal to $1.32. The stock’s 52-week high was 24 euros, or $29.76, and the low, until now, 12.20 euros, or $15.13. According to press reports, Pokriefke said bankruptcy could not be ruled out if the unions did not agree to KarstadtQuelle’s restructuring plan, echoing a similar statement over the weekend made by the group’s chairman of the management board, Christoph Aschenbach. KarstadtQuelle executives have suggested employees must now be prepared to work longer hours for the same salary. The union has reacted with calls for the safeguarding of jobs and store locations, and will present its strategy in a meeting with the KarstadtQuelle board next week. A spokesman for the Essen-based giant, however, said there is no immediate threat of the group going bankrupt.

HIGH COURT CREDIT: The Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal by Visa and Master Card, letting stand a lower court ruling that the companies violated antitrust laws by barring banks from issuing competing credit cards. Mallory Duncan, general counsel with the National Retail Federation, said the action will create more credit card options and lower costs for merchants and consumers. The high court’s decision follows last year’s settlement between retailers and Visa and Master Card over the credit card firms requiring merchants to accept debit cards, which generate an additional fee.

This story first appeared in the October 5, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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