- The Washington Times - Friday, November 2, 2007

Regional

Time Warner Inc. plans to sell its majority stake in Time Warner Cable and spin off Time Inc. and the AOL Internet business, based in Sterling, Va., after the first quarter of next year, CNBC said, citing unnamed outside advisers. Chief Executive Officer Richard D. Parsons said in June that Time Warner may reduce its stake in the cable unit from more than 80 percent over the next two years. He also said he will decide by year’s end whether AOL’s new strategy is succeeding.

ComScore Inc., the Reston data provider that tracks the most-visited Web sites, declined 14 percent in Nasdaq trading after the company forecast profit that trailed estimates and said it will sell more stock. The shares fell $5.16 to $31.50. Fourth-quarter net income will rise to as much as $5.3 million, ComScore said. That trails the $5.45 million average estimate.

Dominion Resources Inc., Richmond owner of Virginia’s largest utility, said third-quarter profit more than tripled as it booked gains on $19 billion of natural-gas operations sold to focus on its electricity businesses. Net income rose to $2.3 billion ($7.24 a share) from $654 million ($1.85) a year earlier.

Sprint Nextel Corp. of Reston continued to struggle in the third quarter, reporting much lower profits and a continued loss of customers. Net income totaled $64 million (2 cents) compared with $279 million (9 cents) a year ago.

The Navy canceled another of the new generation of speedy and maneuverable warships, this one to be built by General Dynamics Corp. of Falls Church, after efforts to control costs failed. After more than a month of talks, the Navy and General Dynamics said they cannot agree on a restructured contract for the Littoral Combat Ship program that contained cost overruns to the satisfaction of both parties.

Altria Group, parent of domestic tobacco giant Philip Morris USA of Richmond, said it agreed to spend $2.9 billion cash for John Middleton, maker of large, machine-made cigars. With cigarette consumption steadily declining in the U.S., Altria has looked for products, such as cigars and smokeless tobacco, to replace those losses.

National

Ford’s U.S. auto sales fell 9.3 percent in October, while Toyota reported a 4.5 percent rise that helped it finish slightly ahead of Ford for the month. Ford blamed the weakness in part on retracting on low-profit sales to rental car companies. Nissan Motor Co. posted a sales increase of 13 percent for the month, largely due to strong sales of the new Altima sedan and Versa subcompact.

American Airlines sparked a new round of fare increases by raising U.S. round-trip prices by $20, the biggest in a series of increases carriers have attempted as oil prices surge. The nation’s biggest carrier said it raised fares in an attempt to recover some of the costs associated with the rising price of crude oil and jet fuel. Delta Air Lines followed with its own increases.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is probing whether Merrill Lynch & Co. adequately informed investors about losses from subprime mortgages before announcing a larger-than-expected $8.4 billion write-down last week, said a source. The SEC opened an informal inquiry that focuses on whether Merrill’s disclosures to investors reflected its knowledge at the time about potential losses, the person said.

Rates on 30-year mortgages fell to the lowest level in five months as evidence mounted that the economy is slowing. Freddie Mac, the mortgage company, reported that 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages dipped to 6.26 percent this week, down from 6.33 percent last week.

New York Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo said a major real-estate appraisal company colluded with the nation’s largest savings and loan companies to inflate the values of homes nationwide, contributing to the subprime mortgage crisis. Mr. Cuomo announced the civil lawsuit against EAppraiseIT that accuses the First American subsidiary of caving to pressure from Washington Mutual to use a list of “proven appraisers” who he claims inflated home appraisals.

GMAC Financial Services lost $1.6 billion in the third quarter as it fell victim to the turmoil sweeping the mortgage industry, the lender said. The former financing arm of General Motors Corp. said its mortgage business, ResCap, lost $2.3 billion during the third quarter, offsetting profits elsewhere in the business.

Wal-Mart’s former No. 2 executive could face possible prison time after a federal appeals court denied Thomas Coughlin’s bid to overturn a decision that rejected his original sentence of home detention as too light. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at St. Louis denied Coughlin’s appeal for a new hearing on the sentencing decision. The court ruled in August that home detention rather than prison “does not fall within the range of reasonableness.”

A coalition of consumer groups and legal scholars formally asked the Federal Communications Commission to stop Comcast Corp. from interfering with its subscribers’ file sharing. Two of the groups also are asking the FCC to fine Comcast $195,000 for every affected subscriber. Comcast reportedly has hindered file sharing by subscribers who used BitTorrent, a popular file-sharing program.

Internet social networking leader MySpace is joining Google Inc.’s platform for sharing applications across the Web — a concept that threatens to undermine the rapid growth of their common rival, Facebook Inc. The interactive programs, known as “widgets,” make it easier to share music, pictures, video and other personal interests on social networking sites.

Kraft Foods Inc. and Procter & Gamble Co. sued each other over the use of plastic containers for Maxwell House and Folger’s coffee. Kraft in its suit claims that a plastic container for P&G;’s Folger’s brand infringes on Kraft’s patented technologies in use in its Maxwell House brand.

Food giant General Mills said it is recalling 414,000 cases of frozen pizzas from supermarkets on concern they might be contaminated with the E. coli bacteria. The voluntary recall affects Totino’s and Jeno’s frozen pizzas with pepperoni toppings produced at the company’s Wellston, Ohio, plant. Authorities are probing 21 occurrences of E. coli-related illnesses in 10 states as of July 20. About half of those affected were hospitalized.

International

China raised gasoline and diesel prices by nearly 10 percent, reversing anti-inflation controls in hopes of cooling demand amid fuel shortages that have left trucks backed up at filling stations in the booming south. Fuel supplies have long been tight across China, a problem that oil companies blame on a lack of investment in refineries because of government price controls.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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