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story.lead_photo.caption In this May 18, 2006, file photo a worker puts the finishing touches on a sign unveiling the company's new look at a Payless Shoesource store at a mall in Independence, Mo.

Austrian leader: Trump, EU far from deal

Donald Trump and the European Union are still far from a deal to avert threatened tariffs on European cars, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said after what he described as contentious exchanges during a meeting with the U.S. president.

The two argued over trade and energy policy, areas in which "our relationship has seen better times," during talks at the White House on Wednesday, Kurz said. The 32-year-old Austrian leader said he proposed to Trump a wider trade framework that would include U.S. ambitions in areas such as agriculture.

"I think he would be ready to make a deal, and we in the EU want one," Kurz told Austrian public broadcaster ORF after the 60-minute meeting. "But the positions are very far apart and the White House sometimes takes decisions quickly, so we can't rule out that those tariffs will come."

Kurz, Europe's youngest head of government, has drawn interest in the White House as a fresh conservative face challenging the EU's center-right establishment.

He is trying to position himself as a mediator between the U.S. administration and Europe as disputes over tariffs, energy and sanctions against Iran are mounting. Trump's relations with Germany and France have reached a low point, allowing Kurz to try to fill a niche for the neutral country of 9 million.

-- Bloomberg News

Payless to honor gift cards into March

The Payless ShoeSource chain will honor gift cards and store credit until March 11 as the company liquidates all operations.

The Topeka, Kan., company, which filed for bankruptcy protection this week, will allow returns and exchanges of nonfinal sale items through the end of this month for goods bought before Feb. 17.

Payless said Wednesday that it received court approval to support the orderly closing of about 2,500 stores in the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada, as well as its e-commerce business. It also received authorization to pay employee wages and benefits, as well as claims from critical vendors.

Retail operations outside North America, including company-owned stores in Latin America, are separate entities and are not included in the bankruptcy filing.

-- The Associated Press

U.K. official: Huawei risks manageable

LONDON -- President Donald Trump's administration has spent a year trying to convince America's allies in Europe that the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei is a grave threat to their national security and should not be allowed any role in developing new wireless networks.

Ciaran Martin, who leads Britain's National Cyber Security Center, expressed confidence Wednesday at a conference in Brussels that any security risks Huawei posed could be managed.

Britain, Martin noted, has successfully managed the company's presence in the country's telecommunications networks for more than 15 years by subjecting its products to strict security reviews at a laboratory run by government intelligence officials, adding it would continue to do so.

"Our regime is arguably the toughest and most rigorous oversight regime in the world for Huawei," he said. He added that the company's equipment "is not in any sensitive networks, including those of the government. Its kit is part of a balanced supply chain with other suppliers."

As Britain's cellphone carriers begin to build 5G networks, officials are considering if, and how, Huawei fits into the effort. With a final decision expected by the end of the year, Martin's remarks suggest the British government is unmoved by the Trump administration's offensive against the company.

-- The New York Times

Comcast sues Tennessee over $17M

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Comcast is suing the state of Tennessee to recoup $17.1 million paid in taxes, claiming the state miscalculated what the company owed for its video and Internet services.

Comcast and its affiliates sued state Revenue Commissioner David Gerregano last week in Davidson County Chancery Court.

The lawsuit claims Comcast paid $17.1 million extra in franchise and excise taxes, plus interest, for 2012 through 2015 because of a state audit.

Comcast says the state wrongly counted its tax bill because the company performed more earnings-producing activities for Internet and video services outside Tennessee than inside, which would change the tax formula. The company also claims the state's tax assessment wasn't based on Comcast's actual books and records.

A spokesman for Tennessee's attorney general didn't respond to a request for comment.

-- The Associated Press

New Orleans airport sets traveler record

NEW ORLEANS -- The Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport said it had 13.1 million travelers pass through its facility last year, breaking its 2017 passenger record of about 12 million.

The New Orleans Advocate reports the increase in passengers marks the airport's eighth-straight year of growth. Director of Aviation Kevin Dolliole said the airport is working to add new flights. Airlines have added or expanded coverage on nine routes, and seven new routes are expected to start this year.

New Orleans and Co. spokesman Kristian Sonnier said a report on the total number of city visitors in 2018 won't be complete until this spring. But he said the number is expected to surpass the 17.7 million people who visited in 2017.

The airport is moving to a new terminal in May.

-- The Associated Press

Farm company plans to move U.S. hub

OLIVE BRANCH, Miss. -- A German agricultural implement company is moving its North American headquarters from Memphis into Mississippi.

Krone announced Wednesday that it's investing $1.5 million to move a 45-employee headquarters and distribution facility to Olive Branch. The company said the new, rented location lets it consolidate two warehouses and offers better highway access.

State and local governments plan to give Krone incentives worth more than $8 million.

Mississippi Development Authority spokesman Tammy Craft said Krone will get property and inventory tax abatements projected at $7.3 million over 10 years. It will also get a $250,000 grant to relocate equipment. Craft said Krone qualifies for incentives to rebate some worker income taxes to the company. That requires Krone to pay workers at least $37,521 annually. The company could get $675,000 over 10 years.

-- The Associated Press

Business on 02/21/2019

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