- The Washington Times - Friday, September 28, 2007

Regional

U Fannie Mae Chief Executive Daniel Mudd said the housing slump will last beyond next year, dragging down home prices and increasing credit losses. The outlook from District-based Fannie Mae is more bearish than that of the National Association of Realtors, which this month predicted new home sales will stop falling in the first quarter of 2008.

U Capital One Financial said yesterday that it is cutting 380 customer service jobs in the Richmond area over the next six months. Capital One spokeswoman Julie Rakes said the employees work in credit card operations, which is facing fierce competition.

U Broadcasters need not worry about local advertising revenue disappearing if the proposed takeover of XM Satellite Radio by Sirius Satellite Radio goes through, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin said. “I would be concerned if they were trying to become a local broadcaster,” Mr. Martin said. “Because they are a national service … they are not allowed to be on localized content.”

U Republic Property Trust of the District said that its common shareholders approved the merger of Republic with an affiliate of Liberty Property Trust. Holders of Republic’s common shares will receive $14.70 in cash for each common share issued and outstanding immediately before the effective time of the merger.

U McLean’s BAE Systems, the U.S. subsidiary of British defense giant BAE Systems PLC, won a five-year contract worth up to $120 million from the Department of Labor to provide software application development for the Bureau of Labor Statistics to help generate the bureau’s economic data. BAE Systems has been providing such services to the BLS since 1992.

U Lockheed Martinof Bethesda boosted its stock-repurchase program by 20 million shares and raised its quarterly dividend 20 percent. Separately, the Air Force told Congress that Lockheed’s $11 billion program to upgrade the engines of C-5 transport planes has overrun its original cost per plane by 50 percent.

National

U The Securities and Exchange Commission, probing suspected insider trading of Dow Jones & Co. stock, won a court order freezing a Hong Kong couple’s assets until investigators can resolve the case. The SEC sued Kan King Wong and Charlotte Ka On Wong Leung in May, claiming they made an $8.2 million profit in three weeks based on confidential information about Rupert Murdoch’s pending bid for Dow Jones.

U The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Bloomberg LP, a news and financial services company, saying it discriminated against women who became pregnant and took maternity leave. In a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, the commission said the company engaged in a pattern of demoting and reducing the pay of women after they announced they were pregnant.

U Rates on 30-year mortgages rose for a second straight week, a sharp rebound after hitting a four-month low. Freddie Mac, the mortgage company, reported that 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages averaged 6.42 percent this week, up from 6.34 percent last week.

U Banks slowed their borrowing from the Federal Reserve this week to the smallest amount in six weeks, a hopeful sign that the credit crisis is easing. The Fed reported that the average daily borrowing for the week ended Wednesday was $88 million, compared with a daily average of $2.18 billion for the previous week.

U Bear Stearnsis returning to the debt market with a proposed $2.5 billion note sale, taking advantage of a rally in corporate bonds. The 10-year senior global notes are being marketed to yield 187.5 basis points more than Treasuries of similar maturity, substantially less than the rate Bear Stearns had to pay in August.

U Walt Disney Co. said it will pull the plug on its branded cell phone service by the end of the year. Disney said customers liked the product that allowed parents to determine the location of a child carrying a phone, but that it was having problems getting large retailers to stock the phone.

U Microsoft Corp., seeking to narrow Google Inc.’s 5-to-1 lead in Internet queries, will add shopping, health, map and entertainment features to its search engine. The updated service, starting this week, will respond to queries with a special panel of results. A search for products such as digital cameras will bring up the most popular models, as well as an average of online reviews.

U The chairman of a Senate antitrust panel said that Google Inc.’s proposed $3.1 billion acquisition of online advertising firm DoubleClick Inc. “warrants close examination” by federal regulators. Sen. Herb Kohl, Wisconsin Democrat, asked whether “advertisers and Internet publishers [will] have no choice but to deal with Google, giving Google a stranglehold over Internet advertising and the power to raise ad rates.”

U Zimmer Holdings Inc., Johnson & Johnson and two other makers of hip- and knee-implant devices agreed to pay $311 million to settle claims by U.S. prosecutors that they paid kickbacks to surgeons who used their products. The agreements cover Zimmer, J&J;’s DePuy Orthopaedics Inc., Smith & Nephew Inc., and Biomet Inc. Prosecutors said they will defer criminal charges if the companies make reforms over 18 months.

U The House voted today to expand a federal flood insurance program to also include coverage for wind damage, a proposal that may reduce the role of private insurers in coastal areas. The bill hasn’t been voted on by the Senate. Supporters say it will make coverage more readily available in hurricane-prone coastal regions, while critics say the move is “fiscally irresponsible” and will encourage development in high-risk areas.

U Toyota Motor Corp.’s Lexus, the top-selling luxury brand in the United States, is studying high-performance hybrids to appeal to buyers who want something sporty while being environmentally friendly. More-powerful models may help Toyota meet a goal of extending its hybrid dominance in the United States, now at 78 percent of the market.

U KBR Inc., the former Halliburton subsidiary whose work for the U.S. military in Iraq has prompted congressional inquiries, plans to place greater emphasis on domestic industrial construction and other parts of its business as its work in Iraq declines, the company’s top executive said Thursday. KBR hasn’t ruled out potential acquisitions to expand its base, Chairman and Chief Executive Bill Utt said.

International

U Britain will begin phasing out energy-guzzling incandescent light bulbs early next year in favor of low-energy varieties as part of its battle against climate change, the environment ministry said. The aim of the as yet voluntary deal with the major makers, retailers and energy utilities is to cut up to five million tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year by 2012.

U Businessman Jose Maria Ruiz-Mateos has offered to buy a 10 percent stake in troubled British mortgage lender Northern Rock PLC, a spokeswoman for the Spanish entrepreneur said. A Northern Rock official declined to comment.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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