- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Regional

A Federal Communications Commission auction of the airwaves that will be vacated by television broadcasters next year came to a close after two months of bidding, netting $19.6 billion. The winning bidders are not yet known, but heavyweights such as AT&T; Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and Google Inc. were approved auction participants.

House members from both parties are asking the Federal Reserve to intervene and steady the shaken student loan market. Rep. Paul E. Kanjorski, Pennsylvania Democrat and chairman of the House Financial Services subcommittee on capital markets, was joined by 31 other lawmakers in asking the Fed to inject cash into the student loan market by using a special lending operation.

LaSalle Hotel Properties of Bethesda said that its joint venture with Oxford OG Hospitality Chicago LLC bought floors 2 through 13 and a portion of the first floor of the existing 52-story IBM Building in downtown Chicago for $46 million. The joint venture plans to convert the vacant floors to a luxury hotel.

Carlyle Group’s mortgage-bond fund, headquartered in London, will be liquidated by Begbies Traynor Group PLC after it defaulted on $16.6 billion of debt last week. Carlyle Group, a District-based private-equity firm co-founded by David Rubenstein, is winding up the fund seven months after its initial public offering.

National

A security breach at an East Coast supermarket chain exposed more than 4 million card numbers and led to 1,800 cases of fraud, the Hannaford Bros. grocery chain said. Hannaford said credit-card and debit-card numbers were stolen during the card authorization process and about 4.2 million unique card numbers were exposed, placing the case among the largest data breaches.

Microsoft posted a major package of updates and security fixes for its Windows Vista operating system for download. People whose PCs run the newest Microsoft operating system can visit Microsoft’s Windows Update or Download Center Web sites and download the free Service Pack 1.

Shares of Thornburg Mortgage Inc., the “jumbo” mortgage specialist struggling to meet margin calls, jumped after five lenders agreed to freeze demands for more collateral through March 2009. The shares rose 73 cents, or 32 percent, to $2.98.

GMAC, the auto and home lender formerly owned by General Motors, named Alvaro de Molina chief executive to replace Eric Feldstein because of rising mortgage defaults and slowing auto sales. Mr. Feldstein, who had led GMAC since 2002, will join Cerberus Capital Management, which bought 51 percent of GMAC in 2006.

CVS Caremark agreed to pay almost $37 million to nearly two dozen states and the federal government to settle claims that the nation’s largest pharmacy chain billed Medicaid programs for a more expensive formulation of an antacid, authorities said. Attorneys said the nation’s largest pharmacy chain gave Medicaid patients the more expensive of two generic forms of Zantac.

Up to 700 technicians and other Qwest Communications employees who work on traditional land telephone lines have been offered voluntary buyouts, the company said. Qwest announced the job cuts as thousands of customers abandon traditional phone lines in favor of other services, including those offered through wireless and cable companies.

Countrywide Financial was sued by victims of Hurricanes Rita and Katrina who claim the company withdrew its offer to defer their mortgage payments without penalties. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Mississippi, claims Countrywide threatened to foreclose on homes if owners didn’t agree to a loan modifications that cost them more.

Former KPMG LLP partner Robert Pfaff, who is scheduled to go on trial in September for selling illegal tax shelters, was indicted in a second case by federal prosecutors in New York. The new conspiracy case accuses Mr. Pfaff of defrauding the Internal Revenue Service by failing to pay taxes on millions of dollars in fees he earned by devising tax shelters.

Roche Holding AG said it has accepted conditions including higher royalty payments that a judge suggested for the company to begin U.S. sales of an anemia drug that violates patents held by Amgen Inc. If the Boston-based federal judge grants final approval to the terms Roche accepted, Amgen would face a new rival to its top-selling anemia treatments, Aranesp and Epogen.

Fremont General Corp., the California lender forced to exit the subprime mortgage business, will delay a semiannual interest payment of $6.6 million on its senior debt as it weighs a potential sale of the company. Fremont has 30 days after March 17 to make the payment without being put into default, the company said.

The nation’s largest mortgage insurer, MGIC Investment Corp., said it will offer $350 million in common stock to help it raise capital. The Milwaukee company also said it would sell about $325 million worth of debt securities to the private market to give it even more money.

Oil prices bounded higher after the Federal Reserve’s rate cut and a rally on Wall Street raised energy investors’ hopes for the economy. Light, sweet crude for April delivery rose $3.74 to settle at $109.42 a barrel in New York.

US Airways Group Inc. joined other U.S. carriers in deciding to further trim flight capacity this year after an 86 percent jump in jet-fuel prices. The carrier said it will reduce capacity for this year an additional 2 percent to 3 percent, on top of initial plans to trim 1.5 percent. Delta Air Lines Inc. and United Airlines were among other carriers that said they would trim capacity.

Boeing Co. and jet-engine makers General Electric Co. and Pratt & Whitney said they are seeing no slowdown in commercial aerospace demand even as fuel prices rise, credit markets tighten, and U.S. and European economies weaken. With higher sales to fast-growing emerging markets, Boeing said it has “confidence this up-cycle will be longer and stronger than we’ve experienced in the past.”

International

Ford Motor Co. could sell storied British automakers Jaguar and Land Rover to India’s Tata Motors by the middle of next week, sources said. One source said many of the details had been worked out, and he expected side agreements with Ford supplying engines and other technologies for Jaguar and Land Rover.

A British judge ruled against Exxon Mobil Corp., tossing out an order to freeze $12 billion in assets belonging to Venezuela’s state oil company in a case that stemmed from the nationalization of an oil project last year. Judge Paul Walker said he would make public the reasons for his judgment tomorrow.

A bid to take over Italy’s near-bankrupt Alitalia airline came under strain as union leaders and the transport minister unleashed harsh criticism at would-be buyer Air France-KLM.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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