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Flextronics, Beckman in Settlement Talks

October 02, 2003|James F. Peltz | Times Staff Writer

Flextronics International Ltd. and Beckman Coulter Inc. are in talks to possibly settle a contract dispute that resulted in a stunning $934-million award against Flextronics by an Orange County jury last week, a lawyer for Beckman Coulter said Wednesday.

But the lawyer, Daniel Callahan in Santa Ana, cautioned that the companies remained far apart in their negotiations.

"The only offer we've received from Flextronics thus far is $10 million," a sum that is "woefully too low," Callahan said.

The settlement talks continued as Beckman Coulter held a previously scheduled board meeting Wednesday, but the directors took no further action regarding the litigation, he added.

Thomas Smach, Flextronics' senior vice president of finance, declined to comment. Flextronics said last week that it would "mount a vigorous challenge of this runaway jury verdict," and some legal experts predicted that the punitive portion of the jury's award would be reduced on appeal.

A jury in Santa Ana found that Flextronics, a Singapore-based electronics concern that has an operational base in San Jose, engaged in fraud and broke a contract to provide circuit boards to Beckman Coulter, a Fullerton-based maker of biomedical-testing gear.

The jury awarded $3 million in actual damages to Beckman Coulter and added $931 million in punitive damages.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Gregory Lewis formally entered the judgment against Flextronics on Tuesday, Callahan said. The judge also prohibited Flextronics from disposing of assets or transferring funds out of the United States without Lewis' approval, except in the normal course of business, Callahan added.

Flextronics' stock lost 26 cents Wednesday, to $13.96 a share, on Nasdaq. Beckman Coulter's stock rose $1.47, to $47.01, on the New York Stock Exchange.

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