Business Briefs: Comcast cable CEO steps down from post

Business Briefs: Comcast cable CEO steps down from post

March 20th, 2017 by Wire Service in Business Around the Region

Comcast cable CEO steps down from post

The head of Comcast Corp.'s cable division, Neil Smit, will relinquish the post on April 1 and be replaced by longtime cable division executive Dave Watson.

In explaining the move, Smit, a 60-year-old former Navy Seal, cited health issues related to a "previous career" and the desire to spend more time with his family. His compensation was $51 million over the past two years, according to Comcast's filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The cable division includes pay-TV, high-speed internet, phone, and the fast-growing business services operations.

Smit's replacement will be tasked with improving customer satisfaction and maintaining momentum in Comcast's pay-TV business, which in 2016 added subscribers for the first time in about a decade.

Port of Savannah cargo up 10 percent over 2016

Cargo shipments to the Port of Savannah in Georgia rose 10 percent last month to an all-time high for February as the widened Panama Canal continued to boost the number and size of ships headed for U.S. east coast ports.

The Georgia Ports Authority said Monday it moved 2.94 million tons across all docks at the Port of Savannah last month, second only to January's 3.01 million tons during a month with three more days.

"Ocean carriers have recognized the Port of Savannah as the must-call port to serve the Southeastern U.S.," GPA Executive Director Griff Lynch reported to the Authority Board on Monday. "With the coming realignment of the shipping alliances in April, Savannah will offer more container services than any other East Coast or Gulf port, at 35 weekly vessel calls."

The Panama Canal expansion was completed last June and next year Northwest Georgia and other nearby markets also should benefit with the planned opening of the Appalachian Regional Port for the CSX Railroad near Chatsworth, Ga.

In 2018, a direct, 388-mile rail route to the Georgia Ports Authority's Garden City Terminal is to be opened.

The facility will open in Murray County by 2018 with a capacity of 50,000 containers per year that can be transported along a 388-mile rail route directly to the Port of Savannah. A 10-year development plan will then double that capacity.

UBS to stand trial on French tax fraud

Swiss bank UBS AG has been ordered to stand trial in France for allegedly helping wealthy French clients evade the country's tax authorities after it rejected as too pricey an out-of-court settlement offer from prosecutors.

A French judicial official said Monday that investigating judges found the charges against the Zurich-based bank serious and strong enough to send the case to trial at a later date.

UBS AG said in a statement it disagrees with "the allegations, assumptions and legal interpretations being made" and that it will continue to "strongly defend ourselves."

The official said UBS AG is set to appear in a French criminal court under charges of illegal bank soliciting and aggravated money laundering. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to publicly discuss the decision.

Trump Winery applies to hire foreign workers

A Virginia winery owned by President Donald Trump's son has applied to hire foreign workers to pick grapes after the company was unable to find U.S. citizens who want the job.

Trump Vineyard Estates, better known as Trump Winery, has asked to bring in 29 workers this season through the federal H-2A visa program. The Charlottesville, Va., winery is owned by Eric Trump, whose father has called on businesses to hire Americans.

The H-2A program enables agricultural employers who anticipate a shortage of domestic workers to bring foreign workers to the U.S. to perform agricultural labor or other temporary or seasonal services. To apply, employers say they've been unable to find American citizens to fill the jobs. At least three other local vineyards also applied to hire foreign workers.

"It's difficult to find people," said Libby Whitley, an attorney who has worked with employers, including Trump Winery.

New York group opposes nuclear power aid plan

Nearly 70 locally elected officials in New York are calling on Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo to halt a tax subsidy program that would allow three aging nuclear power plants to remain open upstate.

Legislators, town supervisors and councilmembers from more than two dozen counties signed a letter Monday to Cuomo requesting the state pause the program set to begin April 1 and publicly reassess clean energy options.

Cuomo has said keeping the plants open would provide reliable energy as New York transitions half its power to renewable sources by 2030.

Some environmental advocates who oppose the program estimate its cost at up to $7.6 billion over 12 years.

The Public Service Commission said the program will cost about $1 billion in the first two years but cannot predict additional costs.