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Asbestos claims drive Kaiser Aluminum into bankruptcy


HOUSTON--Kaiser Aluminum Corp. has filed for bankruptcy reorganization, citing growing asbestos liabilities along with weak aluminum market conditions and debt as reasons for the move.

Like several other asbestos defendants that preceded it into bankruptcy, Kaiser and its main operating unit, Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Co., have seen new asbestos claims rise unexpectedly in recent years. The Houston-based company reported 112,400 pending claims as of Sept. 30, 2001, compared with 110,800 at year-end 2000, despite the settlement of more than 25,000 claims in the interim. During the first nine months of last year, Kaiser paid $86.9 million in asbestos settlements and defense costs compared with $99.5 million for all of 2000.

In its third-quarter 2001 10-Q filing, Kaiser also reported carrying a $633.1 million liability for future asbestos-related costs--up from $492.4 million at year-end 2000--partially offset by a receivable of $501.1 million for expected insurance recoveries.

The Chapter 11 filing covers Kaiser, Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical and several wholly owned subsidiaries.

Separately, Honeywell International Inc. says it will appeal a New York Supreme Court jury's award of $53.5 million to the family of a man who died of asbestos-related disease. The suit named various defendants including Bendix, a brake manufacturer acquired by Allied-Signal Inc., which later merged with Honeywell. Morristown, N.J.-based Honeywell said that its share of the award will amount to about $1.2 million and that it is insured for any eventual liability.