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Economy Briefs: Citigroup initiates program to let troubled homeowners pay rent

- - Wednesday, August 8, 2012

BANKING

Citigroup Inc. will try something new to keep struggling homeowners out of foreclosure: turn them into renters.

CitiMortgage announced the program Wednesday and painted it as a way to help homeowners stuck in houses they can't afford.

The New York-based bank, however, won't manage the program. Instead, it just sold a $158 million mortgage portfolio to investment firms that will manage the program.

It will work like this: Carrington Capital Management and its sister mortgage company will comb the portfolio for eligible homeowners -- though they are homeowners in name only because they are still paying for their houses. Carrington is looking for people who owe more on their houses than they are worth, but also seem to have the means to keep making monthly payments.

They also must live in the house, meaning it can't be a vacation home or investment property. They also have to be at least four months late on payments.

Carrington said the pilot program will help about 500 homeowners in six markets that have been hit especially hard by the plunge in housing prices: Arizona, California, Texas, Florida, Nevada and Georgia. It says it will begin contacting eligible homeowners this month.

FAST FOOD

McDonald's is left hungry for revenue with strong rivals, weak economy

NEW YORK — The Golden Arches are starting to lose some of their shine.

McDonald's Corp. says a key revenue figure came in flat in July as diners pulled back amid a rough economy. After years of outperforming rivals with a string of popular new items, the snag also suggests competition is intensifying for the world's biggest hamburger chain.

The last time the global sales figure dipped for McDonald's was in April 2003. The figure has grown every month since then, even through the recession.

"McDonald's may be underperforming the industry, which is not typical for them," said Sara Senatore, a Bernstein analyst. She noted that Taco Bell is showing strength as a result of its popular new Doritos-flavored tacos, with revenue at restaurants open at least a year registering double-digit growth in the second quarter.

EARNINGS

HP to take a record quarterly loss after write-down of services business

NEW YORK — Hewlett-Packard Co. said Wednesday that it will take a massive charge against its earnings for the latest quarter, leading to a record loss of nearly $9 billion.

The charge is the result of a write-down of the value of its services business, reflecting that the company overpaid when it bought Electronic Data Systems in 2008 for $14 billion.

HP said it will take an $8 billion charge for the reduced value of Enterprise Services in the quarter that ended in July. The division, which provides information technology and outsourcing services to corporations, has reported flat revenue for the past two years, and its operating profit has declined.

The Palo Alto, Calif., company said the charge and other accounting adjustments will lead to losses of $4.31 to $4.49 per share. That works out to about $8.5 billion to $8.9 billion.

In the past 15 years, HP has posted only one quarterly loss.

MEDIA

New York Times to sell About.com to Answers.com for $270 million

LOS ANGELES — The New York Times Co. is selling its troubled website About.com for $270 million.

The site, which provides basic information on a variety of topics, is being sold to St. Louis-based Answers.com, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Because the deal is still awaiting financing, the person was not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity.

The Times confirmed discussions of a sale but said no definitive agreement has been reached.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports