- The Washington Times - Friday, February 1, 2008

Regional

U Capital One Financial, the McLean credit-card issuer, authorized the repurchase of as much as $2 billion of stock and raised its quarterly dividend more than tenfold to 37.5 cents per share.

U NewMarket Corp. of Richmond said earnings from continuing operations, excluding special items, jumped 64 percent in the fourth quarter to $15.4 million (96 cents per share) from $9.4 million (53 cents) a year ago. Earnings from continuing operations for last year rose 42 percent to 69.0 million ($4.07).

U Sprint Nextel Corp. of Reston, the nation’s third-largest wireless provider, said it will have to write off a significant chunk of the remaining value of its 2005 purchase of Nextel Communications Inc. and several affiliates, reflecting the continued struggles of its wireless operations.

U Sallie Mae of Reston, the biggest U.S. student lender, was sued by an investor claiming the company concealed the fact it lacked adequate reserves for uncollectible loans. A proposed class-action lawsuit was filed in Manhattan federal court, seeking unspecified damages.

National

U Motorola said it is considering a breakup of the company in an effort “to recapture global market leadership” in the mobile phone market, and to boost shareholder value. The move could include the separation of its Mobile Devices division from its other businesses.

U Bank of America’s offer of about $4 billion for Countrywide Financial, the biggest U.S. home lender, is too low, according to one of the mortgage company’s biggest stakeholders, SRM Global Fund, a Cayman Islands private investment firm.

U Florida’s attorney general is investigating Countrywide Financial for suspected unfair and deceptive business practices related to its home loans. The subpoena, dated Jan. 17, directs Countrywide to provide documents and other information describing procedures used to determine whether borrowers qualify for subprime loans, those for people with shaky credit.

U Rates on 30-year mortgages rose for the first time this year after four straight weekly declines. Freddie Mac reported that 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages averaged 5.68 percent this week, up from 5.48 percent last week.

U Defaults on privately insured U.S. mortgages rose 37 percent in December from the same month a year earlier, a report from District-based Mortgage Insurance Companies of America showed. The number of insured borrowers falling more than 60 days late on payments jumped to a record 64,384 in December from 46,921 a year ago.

U The U.S. economy is in a recession, with housing prices likely to continue falling for another year, Standard & Poor’s Chief Economist David Wyss said. The recession began in December, Mr. Wyss said, predicting average U.S. housing prices will decline as much as 6 percent over the next year.

U H&R; Block said it will eliminate more than 500 corporate positions as part of an effort to slash expenses by $110 million a year. The bulk of the 325 filled and 180 open positions are at the company’s headquarters in Kansas City, Mo., representing about 23 percent of its corporate work force.

U Altria’s Philip Morris unit must pay $79.5 million in punitive damages awarded over the death of a smoker, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled, reinstating a judgment erased by the U.S. Supreme Court last year on the basis that jury instructions were flawed.

U A federal appeals court upheld TiVo’s claims that Dish Network infringed on one of its patents. The court agreed that digital video recorders distributed by Dish, formerly known as EchoStar Communications, violated the software elements of TiVo’s patent.

U Mattel Inc. posted a 15 percent gain in fourth-quarter profit, even though it entered the crucial holiday season in the shadow of negative publicity over its recalls of millions of Chinese-made toys tainted with lead. Net income grew to $328.5 million (89 cents) in the October-through-December period.

U The ousted president and chief executive of Sears Holdings will continue to receive his $1 million annual salary until March 2010. According a regulatory filing this week, the ailing retailer also will give Aylwin B. Lewis accelerated vesting of restricted shares and stock options.

U A local United Auto Workers president is promising to fight Chrysler’s effort to cut the jobs of 119 car designers who are represented by the union. Jeff Hagler, president of UAW Local 412 in Warren, Mich., said, “It’s like war against the union, and we’re going to go back to war against them,” Mr. Hagler said.

U General Motors, vying with Toyota for the global sales lead, plans to build “tens of thousands” of Chevrolet Volt hybrid electric cars within a year of starting production in 2010. The Volt, being designed as a plug-in hybrid vehicle that can go 40 miles without recharging, will meet global safety standards, GM said.

U Whirlpool Corp. is closing plants in Tennessee and Mexico, affecting a total of 1,250 workers, the appliance maker said. Whirlpool said about 500 jobs will be eliminated at its plant in La Vergne, Tenn., and about 750 jobs will be affected in Reynosa, Mexico. The jobs represent less than 2 percent of its global work force.

U Google Inc.’s fourth-quarter profit fell below analyst expectations, signaling the crumbling U.S. economy has dented the Internet search leader’s money-making machine. The company said it earned $1.21 billion ($3.79 per share) during the final three months of 2007, up 17 percent from $1.03 billion ($3.29) a year ago.

International

U Euro-zone inflation hit an all-time high last month, dampening hopes by some investors that the European Central Bank will cut interest rates even amid signs of slowing growth. Year-on-year inflation in the 15 euro-currency nations rose to 3.2 percent, up from 3.1 percent in December, the EU statistical agency said.

U About 4,000 employees of crisis-hit French bank Societe Generale demonstrated in front of the company’s Paris headquarters to protest a proposed takeover, the bank said. BNP Paribas, France’s biggest bank, suggested it might be interested in a takeover of Societe Generale, which is seen as a target after a rogue trader scandal.

U Iraqi and European Union officials agreed to pursue closer energy ties, bringing the EU a step closer to turning Iraq into a major supplier and reducing its dependency on Russia. EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said the 27-nation union was keen to see Iraq link into the Mashreq Arab pipeline project, which will extend through Egypt, Jordan and Syria to Turkey.

U Lawsuits by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and girlfriend Carla Bruni over budget airline Ryanair’s use of their photo in an advertisement went to court. Mr. Sarkozy and Miss Bruni filed separate lawsuits that were heard together in a court session in Paris.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

U The United States and Russia said they will begin formal talks this year to discuss growing trade and investment links, which include U.S. plans to import Russian nuclear fuel. In a sign of their deepening ties, the Commerce Department said separately that the United States will import Russian nuclear fuel under a deal to be signed today at Washington Dulles International Airport.

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