- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 16, 2008

Regional

The British government is about to complete a $2 billion, 25-year deal with a Lockheed Martin Corp. joint venture to train 50,000 British pilots and aircrew. The tentative deal for Bethesda-based Lockheed and privately held British defense contractor VT Group PLC took nearly five years to negotiate.

Best Buy said its annual profit would be smaller than expected, hurt by a slowing economy as shoppers held back on buying TVs, digital music players and cameras. But the nation’s largest consumer electronics retailer bet on a rebound by saying it will keep investing in new stores, including as many as 25 in China. That’s a move that could widen its lead over Richmond rival Circuit City, or hurt it if the slowdown persists. Best Buy shares fell $1.15, or 2.5 percent, to close at $44.62.

National

The former chief executive of Refco Inc., one of the world’s biggest commodities brokerages, cried as he pleaded guilty to conspiracy and fraud charges that carry a possible prison term of more than 300 years. Phillip R. Bennett, 59, pleaded guilty to 20 counts of conspiracy to commit securities fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud, money laundering and making false filings to the SEC.

Liquidating subprime mortgage lenderNew Century Financial Corp. lost a bid to force the Internal Revenue Service to hand over a $66 million tax refund. Judge Kevin Carey sided with the government in a quarrel over the cash, money New Century says should come back to it because of big losses in 2006. New Century filed for bankruptcy last April after admitting its financial reports for 2006 were materially wrong.

A patent judgment against Boston Scientific Corp. jumped to $501 million after a judge tacked on an additional $69 million in interest. A federal judge ruled to expand the damages award to cover interest on royalties dating to the medical device maker’s 2004 U.S. introduction of drug-coated heart stents.

The government proposed guidelines for how pharmaceutical companies can use medical journal articles to market drugs for unapproved uses. The Food and Drug Administration guidelines have been eagerly anticipated by drug and device companies that often use medical literature for marketing.

The Bush administration will ask Congress to increase the monthly premiums that wealthier Medicare beneficiaries pay for prescription drug coverage. Individuals making $82,000 a year, or married beneficiaries earning more than $164,000 a year, would pay higher premiums under the plan. It’s not clear how much they would go up.

The Federal Aviation Administration said it has created a system to streamline security clearances, medical screenings, and other steps new air traffic controllers must go through. Those tests and screenings can now be completed in about two weeks, down from about two months, an FAA spokeswoman said.

Exxon Mobil Corp. said it added 1.6 billion barrels of oil equivalent to its proved reserves last year, extending a positive trend of replacing more barrels than it produced. The added reserves for the world’s largest publicly traded oil company totaled 101 percent of its 2007 output. Were it not for property it sold last year and assets seized by the Venezuelan government in a dispute, Exxon Mobil said its reserve replacements would have been 500 million barrels greater.

Abercrombie & Fitch Co. said its fourth-quarter earnings rose 9 percent to $216.8 million ($2.40 per share) on increased sales from its expanding Hollister Co. chain that cater to teens and its abercrombie stores for children.

Continental Airlines Inc., already in consolidation talks with United Airlines, also has had discussions with American Airlines, according to the Houston Chronicle. Continental and American declined to comment on the report.

Four major newspaper publishers have created an online advertising sales network, dubbed QuadrantOne, in the latest industry attempt to claw back ad dollars that are migrating to the Internet. Gannett Co. and Tribune Co., the largest and second-largest publishers in the country, are joining Hearst Corp. and the New York Times Co. to form a company that will sell online ad space across a network of newspapers in many large cities including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

William Modell, head of the family owned Modell’s Sporting Goods chain and a philanthropist who donated millions of dollars to medical research including Crohn’s disease, died of prostate cancer at age 86. Under his leadership, the chain grew from four stores to 136 in about a dozen states in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.

International

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic tentatively agreed to settle a U.S. price-fixing suit over fuel surcharges. British Airways did not confirm the size of the settlement, but the U.S. law firm that filed the class-action suit said the two airlines could pay more than $200 million to customers who flew between Aug. 11, 2004, and March 23, 2006.

The chief executive of Deutsche Post AG chief executive Klaus Zumwinkel tendered his resignation in the wake of charges that he evaded $1.45 million in taxes.

From wire dispatches and staff reports