- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Regional

U InPhonic Inc. of the District filed a liquidation plan that includes the formation of a trust to administer the wireless-service provider’s remaining assets. Under the plan, holders of unsecured claims totaling $106.5 million would receive a share of an unspecified amount of cash to be distributed by the trust. InPhonic sought bankruptcy protection Nov. 8 after agreeing to be bought by Adeptio INPC Funding of Philadelphia.

U Lockheed Martin Corp. of Bethesda won Defense Department funding to produce 12 F-35 Lightning II fighter jets valued at $2.6 billion. The Joint Strike Fighter is a supersonic stealth fighter designed to replace Lockheed’s F-16 and Boeing Co.’s F/A-18 Hornet. The Marines will get six of the jets, which can take off in short distances and land vertically. The award is subject to a review of their first flight this spring.

U Shares of Smithfield Foods Inc. of Smithfield, Va., the world’s biggest pork producer, rose the most in more than seven months after analysts said culling its herd of breeding hogs will boost prices and earnings later in the year. The shares gained $2.01, or 8 percent, to $27.11. Smithfield said in February it would reduce its sow herd as much as 5 percent, or about 50,000 sows, because of record costs for grain-based animal feed.

U AOL, Time Warner Inc.’s Internet unit, bought Sphere to gain technology that lets users search for articles and blog posts, and integrate the related content onto their own Web sites. Sphere, which is closely held, was founded in 2005 and is based in San Francisco. Terms weren’t disclosed. The search technology will allow Sphere’s network of 50,000 online publishers to pull articles from AOL for their Web sites.

U Altria Group Inc. of Richmond paid states $4 billion and Reynolds American Inc.’s R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. paid $2.3 billion as required under a 1998 settlement, the cigarette makers said in separate statements. Altria, the biggest U.S. cigarette maker, disputes $156 million of its payment and will try to get it back, the company said. Altria said it has lost market share to companies that are not part of the settlement.

U Mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac helped provide stability and liquidity in the ailing mortgage markets last year but remain a “significant regulatory concern,” the firms’ regulator said. “While they have made progress … they still have much work to do, especially with the continuing challenges of today’s mortgage market,” said James Lockhart, director of the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight.

National

U Health products maker Johnson & Johnson reported a 40 percent jump in first-quarter profit, mainly due to the weak dollar boosting foreign revenues and a charge that depressed results a year ago. The New Brunswick, N.J.-based conglomerate reported net income of $3.6 billion ($1.26 per share), for the first three months of the year, up from $2.57 billion (88 cents) a year ago. Revenues rose 7.7 percent to $16.19 billion.

U With “Harry Potter” books author J.K. Rowling sitting a few feet away, the author of a reference guide to the series broke down in tears when asked whether he still felt part of the fan community following a lawsuit to block his work. Steve Vander Ark, 50, replied, “I did,” then added, “I do.” Wiping tears and turning from Ms. Rowling’s gaze, he said the suit and resulting controversy have proven “difficult” for him.

U Merck & Co. hired ghostwriters to pen reports about the pain pill Vioxx, reportedly allowing the company to manipulate scientific articles to promote the drug, according to a new analysis of court records. Documents disclosed by Merck in two Vioxx lawsuits also suggest that the company’s control of the data allowed it to downplay the risk of death from Vioxx in elderly patients.

U BlackRock Inc. said its closed-end funds plan to buy back $1.87 billion of preferred shares that have been frozen in the auction-rate securities market. Five taxable funds will refinance $870 million of preferred shares, while an undisclosed number of tax-exempt funds intend to buy back $1 billion, the New York-based asset management giant said.

U Research company Gradient Analytics Inc. accused Overstock.com Inc., the online seller of discounted brand-name goods, and Chief Executive Officer Patrick Byrne of libeling it in retaliation for negative reports. Gradient was defamed by Overstock and Mr. Byrne in analyst meetings, on Web sites and other forums, the research firm said in a complaint filed yesterday in California state court in San Rafael.

U Nymex Holdings Inc. shareholders, upset that the company’s planned sale price to CME Group Inc. has fallen by almost $2 billion, forced the exchange into a special meeting to press for a higher bid. The company received a petition signed by more than 10 percent of the Nymex members, triggering a special meeting for June 3, the exchange said last night on its Web site. CME Group, the world’s largest futures exchange, last month agreed to buy Nymex for about $9.3 billion. The deal was valued at $11.2 billion when first announced Jan. 28.

International

U Petroleos Mexicanos, the third-largest supplier of crude to the U.S., may need to drill as many as 1,000 exploratory wells to tap oil in Gulf of Mexico deep water because the fields are likely to be small, production chief Carlos Morales said. Pemex needs more money and more flexibility under the law to contract foreign companies to help it drill wells in deep water to keep production from declining in the long term, Mr. Morales said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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