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Gut Feel At Intuit


In Business This Week: HEADLINER: SCOTT COOK

GUT FEEL AT INTUIT

Scott Cook knew when to let go. On Sept. 16, Intuit's chairman announced that the No.1 personal-finance software maker will sell its money-losing ISC electronic bill-payment subsidiary so it can refocus on the Internet. CheckFree will pay $268 million in stock for the unit, which Intuit bought two years ago for $8 million.

Changing course isn't what most technology execs do well. But the bill-paying business clearly was problematic. ISC provided a private network for users of Intuit's Quicken software to pay bills and bank electronically. Banks balked at Intuit as middleman, however, and analysts guess it lost more than $20 million on the business in two years. Such transactions now are better suited to the Net, anyway. provided a private network for users of Intuit's Quicken software to pay bills and bank electronically. Banks balked at Intuit as middleman, however, and analysts guess it lost more than $20 million on the business in two years. Such transactions now are better suited to the Net, anyway. The result: Intuit shares have risen 10% since the news, to $33. With new software expected next fall, profits could hit $26 million in the fiscal year ending July 31, from a 1996 loss of $20 million. "They're taking a golden opportunity to reverse course," says Bear Stearns analyst Peter Rogers. "I wish more tech companies would do this." The result: Intuit shares have risen 10% since the news, to $33. With new software expected next fall, profits could hit $26 million in the fiscal year ending July 31, from a 1996 loss of $20 million. "They're taking a golden opportunity to reverse course," says Bear Stearns analyst Peter Rogers. "I wish more tech companies would do this."EDITED BY KEITH H. HAMMONDS By Kathy RebelloReturn to top

A CATHETER IN CRITICAL CONDITION?

FOR 25 YEARS, PHYSICIANS IN intensive care units have used heart catheters to monitor patients' blood pressure and oxygen levels. On Sept. 18, suddenly, the hospital mainstay was called into serious question by findings published in the Journal of the American Medical Assn. The report, based on a study involving 6,000 patients, suggests that the catheters may actually increase patients' risk of death by 20%. The Food & Drug Administration says it will examine the controversial findings, but "as of today, we don't think there is a need for regulatory action," says Larry Kessler, head of medical device surveillance at the agency. The catheter, made by Baxter International and several other companies, accounts for revenues of $300 million worldwide. One concern for those manufacturers now: The threat of new liability suits from families of patients who died years ago.EDITED BY KEITH H. HAMMONDSReturn to top

SERVICE CORP.'S GRAVE BID

NO MORBID BUSINESS, THIS. Service Corp. International has spent three years gobbling up $1 billion worth of funeral home chains and cemetery operators--becoming, with $1.6 billion in revenues--the world's largest "death services" business. On Sept. 16, SCI made its biggest play, disclosing an unsolicited $2.8 billion offer for Canada's Loewen Group. The donnybrook between the two largest such operations could get very loud, very soon. SCI, which hasn't shied away from hostile deals, says it revealed the offer after its calls were not returned and Loewen stock started to rise. Loewen says it will present the offer to its board.EDITED BY KEITH H. HAMMONDSReturn to top


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