U.S.-EU CARGO ACCORD: The U.S. and European Union are scheduled to pen a Customs agreement today in Washington designed to better coordinate cargo inspections of U.S.-bound cargo in Europe. Part of the pact addresses EU concerns that the U.S. security protocol deployed in large European ports are having the unintended consequence of diverting business from smaller ports. Cargo departing large ports that have been certified by the U.S. Container Security Initiative program have developed a competitive advantage because they’re less likely to be inspected upon arrival in America.
ANOTHER POLY HIKE: Makers of polyester staple fiber, commonly used as an insulative filling in coats and other garments, are looking to push through their second price increase of the year. Charlotte, N.C.-based DAK Fibers said Wednesday that it planned to increase its staple prices by 9 to 11 percent, starting with May 17 shipments. The news comes two days after Wellman Inc. said it was raising prices by 10 to 12 percent starting with May 15 shipments. Both companies cited rising raw materials costs as driving the increases. Polyester staple makers last raised prices significantly in February.
BIG GETTING BIGGER: GE Consumer Finance, the consumer lending arm of General Electric, has announced plans to acquire Woodland Hills, Calif.-based WMC Finance Co. The acquisition, the terms of which were not made available, is expected to reach completion during the third quarter. Amy Brandt, currently serving as WMC’s president and chief operating officer, will assume the roles of president and chief executive officer once the deal is finalized. GE Consumer Finance controls $107 billion in assets. Since 1999, WMC has handled $40 billion in loan submissions through its Web site, according to the company.
FELDERMAN TO WET SEAL: The Wet Seal Inc., operator of 476 retail stores under its name, appointed Douglas Felderman as senior vice president and chief financial officer. Felderman joins the company from San Diego-based off-price retailer Factory 2-U Stores Inc., where he was chief financial officer for five years. He replaces Joe Deckop, who has been interim cfo for the last four months since William Langsdorf left Wet Seal for personal reasons, a company spokeswoman said. Deckop will step back into his former role of executive vice president, central planning and allocation. Felderman said in a statement that Wet Seal has a “healthy balance sheet with no debt and strong brand positioning,” and said he anticipates a turnaround. Wet Seal had $17.8 million in losses for the quarter ended Jan. 31 and an 8.1 percent decline in sales to $143.1 million. The company is banking this fall on the debut line from designer Victor Alfaro, whose clothing has been worn by Madonna and other celebrities. Wet Seal, based in Foothill Ranch, Calif., also operates 99 Arden B. stores and 23 Zutopia stores.