- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Regional

• The nation’s largest newspaper publisher, Gannett Co. of McLean, said that its earnings fell 9 percent in the first three months of the year on a drop in advertising. The publisher of USA Today and 84 other daily newspapers in the United States reported a profit of $191.8 million (84 cents a share), compared with $210.6 million (90 cents) a year ago.

• Fairfax technology consultant SRA International said it won a five-year, $108 million Department of Defense communications contract to provide services including program management, data security, logistical support and software and systems engineering.

• The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a class-action lawsuit against McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurants Inc. saying it engaged in a 10-year pattern or practice of discrimination against black applicants and employees at its two Baltimore restaurants. The EEOC charges that management refused to hire black applicants for positions such as waiter and host.

Owens & Minor of Richmond said net income for the first quarter ended March 31 more than doubled to $24.2 million (59 cents) from $10.8 million (27 cents). Revenues rose 3.9 percent. Results for last year’s first quarter were hurt by significant expenses related to an acquisition.

• Apparel fabric and bedroom linens maker Dan River Inc. of Danville, Va., filed for bankruptcy for the second time in four years. The company urged the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del., to let it borrow up to $32 million from GMAC so it can keep operations going. The company has 165 employees and asked a judge to let it meet payroll obligations of $326,000.

SAIC Corp., of San Diego and McLean, said it completed the acquisition of Icon Systems Inc., which develops laser-based systems and products for military training and testing. SAIC said the purchase, for undisclosed terms, strengthens its position in live training and enables the company to provide a broader range of services in the field.

National

• The head of Delta’s pilots union suggested that he is open to arbitration with Northwest pilots over how to merge their seniority lists. The two sides failed to reach a pact before their airlines agreed to combine last week. In a letter to fellow pilots, Lee Moak said union leaders are committed to the idea that seniority integration should be accomplished after negotiation of a single joint contract.

Google Inc. has the most powerful brand in the world, letting it capitalize on its name to sell advertising globally, according to a study by consulting firm Millward Brown. The New York consultant surveyed more than a million consumers about 50,000 brands. The rankings reflect a company’s revenue, the markets in which it competes, consumer attitudes and the brand’s expected contribution to future sales.

• The federal government plans to release a proposal to raise fuel-efficiency standards for new cars and trucks, putting the nation’s fleet on track to reach 35 miles per gallon by 2020. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters was to make the Earth Day announcement in Washington, responding to a new energy law pushed by Congress last year and signed by President Bush.

• The Food and Drug Administration criticized Pfizer Inc. for not mentioning the risks of Viagra in an advertisement featuring country musicians singing the praises of its popular impotency pill, with the refrain, “Viva Viagra.” The FDA called on Pfizer to discontinue the online video advertisement in a warning letter issued last week. Pfizer cited a technical issue with CNN’s Web site.

• To meet the nation’s growing power needs, utilities must be willing to consider new generation methods while making existing techniques more efficient, General Electric Co. Chief Executive Jeffrey Immelt said at an Edison Foundation conference. Growth in fast-growing economies such as China and India, as well as steady demand at home, will keep energy costs high for the foreseeable future, he said.

Texas Instruments said first-quarter profit rose 28 percent as strong demand for analog chips used in electronic equipment offset lower sales of cell phone chips. The Dallas-based chipmaker reported net income of $662 million (49 cents), including a tax gain of 6 cents per share. A year ago, the company posted profit of $516 million (35 cents). Sales rose 2.5 percent to $3.27 billion.

International

UBS AG blamed its massive subprime losses on excessive risk-taking and insufficient controls. Switzerland’s largest bank told shareholders that three of its business units were principally to blame for the billions it lost last year in the mortgage crisis. Further losses reported since then have taken UBS’ total write-downs over the past nine months to $37.4 billion.

• Mexico’s state-run oil company said production dropped 7.8 percent in the first quarter as current reserves dwindled. Petroleos Mexicanos also said oil exports had dropped 12.5 percent over the comparable quarter a year ago. Production fell 5.3 percent to an average 3.1 million barrels a day last year, led by declines at Mexico’s main Cantarell offshore oil field.

J.C. Flowers dropped its $6.9 billion bid for Friends Provident PLC, the U.S. private-equity firm said. Shares in the British insurer dropped 2.6 percent to $2.35 after the announcement. Friends Provident management had refused to negotiate with J.C. Flowers and said the bid significantly undervalued the company.

Airbus has agreed to test Pratt & Whitney’s new fuel-efficient jet engine, giving the European airplane manufacturer access to new technology and the engine maker a chance to showcase its new product. Flight testing of the Geared Turbofan is set to begin at the end of the year. Pratt & Whitney is a subsidiary of Hartford, Conn.-based United Technologies Corp.

Air France-KLM said it was formally withdrawing its takeover offer for cash-strapped Alitalia after negotiations between the two sides collapsed earlier this month over a differences with Alitalia’s unions. Italy’s government will hold a Cabinet meeting in the next 48 hours to determine how to respond to Air France-KLM’s decision, with Alitalia near bankruptcy, ANSA news agency reported.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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