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Tuesday, 19 February, 2002, 21:40 GMT
Tyco's investor pep-talk
Tyco stock price
A crisis in confidence has sent Tyco shares tumbling
Tyco International has sought to reassure worried investors it is not seeking a wholesale sell-off of its parts amid questions over its accounting practices.

Speaking to analysts and investors during a conference call on Tuesday, Tyco chief executive Dennis Kozlowski said the firm was not "rushing assets out the door" in order to speed up its recently announced break-up plan.

Tyco chief executive Dennis Koslowski
Kozlowski: Tyco is not "rushing assets out the door".
Nevertheless, he said the firm was "making solid progress" towards the goal of splitting off its parts in order to boost the firm's flagging share price, which has fallen by half over the last six weeks.

The decline has cost investors about $60bn (41.9bn) since 1 January.

Selling units

Tyco, a sprawling conglomerate that provides everything from plastics to financial services, has begun weekly conference calls in order to restore Wall Street's confidence in the Bermuda-based firm.

Investors, spooked by the Enron scandal, have shied away from the firm due to fears that its highly complex structure could be masking its true financial position.

Tyco also sparked a sell-off in its stock following the announcement of a controversial plan to break itself into four separate units.

Part of the plan involves disposing of its plastics business and its finance unit, which recently resumed its pre-Tyco takeover name, CIT, and was acquired by Tyco just last spring.

"We are now in a number of discussions and negotiations for CIT," Mr Kozlowski said on Tuesday without naming prospective bidders.

Tumbling stock price

Tyco's stock has fallen in response to continued worries on Wall Street over corporate accounting standards, sparked by the collapse of Enron, the Houston-based energy trading firm.

Unlike the energy-trading giant, however, Tyco expects to make a healthy profit in the current quarter-year.

For years, the company has produced above-market returns from unglamorous businesses, and investors have been happy to trust charismatic chairman and CEO Dennis Kozlowski to make the decisions for them.

But in the wake of Enron's collapse, the mood has turned against companies with complicated accounting techniques.

Shareholders are also angry that Mr Kozlowski and Mark Swartz, Tyco's chief financial officer, have reportedly sold shares worth some $500m in the past three years, without informing the markets.

Counting the cost

Tyco is far from being a scandal along the lines of Enron, or Global Crossing, the ambitious US telecoms firm that collapsed last month.

But ominously, banks are already starting to count their exposure to the firm.

According to reports in the Wall Street Journal, JP Morgan Chase has unsecured Tyco loans worth $700m to $1bn, the single biggest bank exposure to the firm.

JP Morgan was also one of the main bankers to Enron.

See also:

13 Feb 02 | Business
Accounting fears hit telecom shares
11 Feb 02 | Business
Echoes of Enron in telecoms collapse
08 Feb 02 | Business
Markets suffer from 'Enronitis'
06 Feb 02 | Business
Tyco soothes investor jitters
30 Jan 02 | Business
Tyco hit by 'Enron ripple'
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