- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 14, 2008

Regional

Sprint Nextel of Reston plans to consolidate its corporate and operational headquarters in Overland Park, Kan. Chief Executive Dan Hesse said the move will keep executives closer to operations and cut down on expenses. Only a small number of executives will be relocated, and significant additional job cuts are not expected. Sprint said it will retain a large presence in Reston, where it employs 4,400.

Amtrak and the United Transportation Union reached a tentative agreement, moving the U.S. national passenger railroad closer to new contracts with its labor groups. The union represents 2,300 Amtrak conductors and their assistants, who must ratify the agreement. The accord retains the number of assistant conductors, which Amtrak wanted to cut by 400, according to the union. The UTU represents 1,904 of its conductors.

Baltimore asset manager Legg Mason, denying market speculation, said none of its money-market funds fell to less than $1 in net asset value. “None of the Legg Mason money-market funds have broken the buck at all,” said spokeswoman Mary Athridge.

National

Air France-KLM Group, Europe’s biggest carrier, plans to invest in a combined Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines in exchange for a board seat, sources said. The size of Air France’s potential stake hasn’t been set. Delta and Northwest have briefed pilots on details of a tie-up, which may be announced next week, the sources said.

A plan by auto-parts supplier Delphi Corp. to exit bankruptcy by the end of next month is in jeopardy as it struggles to get $6.1 billion in loans in the tight credit market. If the company does not secure the exit financing it needs by the end of next month, equity investors led by hedge fund Appaloosa Management could abandon a deal to invest as much as $2.55 billion.

Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. said U.S. financial regulators will propose changes in the rules for packaging loans into bonds in the aftermath of the subprime credit collapse. Mr. Paulson said it will be “a number of months” before the Presidential Working Group on Financial Markets announces its recommendations and that easing credit strains is the first “priority.”

Ambac Financial Group Inc., the bond insurer that posted losses of $5.2 billion related to mortgage-linked securities last quarter, said its chief risk officer resigned. William McKinnon left on Feb. 8, the New York company said. Mr. McKinnon had been with Ambac, the world’s second-largest bond insurer, since at least 1989.

Taser International Inc., the world’s largest maker of stun guns, said three wrongful-death lawsuits against the company were dismissed in California. Plaintiffs dropped two product-liability suits in federal courts and one in state court, Taser said. The company said it has won judgments or dismissals of 66 wrongful-death and personal-injury lawsuits without a court loss.

Chicago Tribune employees were notified that about 100 jobs will be cut by the end of next month through layoffs and buyouts — the first cutbacks for Tribune Co.’s flagship since billionaire Sam Zell took the media company private last year. The cuts — about 3.5 percent of the total number of employees — will come from the paper and other publications and online services.

Sovereign wealth funds must disclose more information about their aims or risk spawning protectionist sentiment that would hurt the United States, the Treasury’s top international adviser told Congress. “Sovereign wealth funds bring benefits to the system, but also raise potential concerns,” said David McCormick, Treasury’s undersecretary for international affairs, in testimony to the Joint Economic Committee.

Coca-Cola Co. reported a 79 percent jump in fourth-quarter profit and maintained its growth targets despite a slowing U.S. economy, but has no plans to be more aggressive with its stock buybacks. Net income was $1.21 billion (52 cents a share) for the three months ending Dec. 31. Sales rose 24 percent to $7.33 billion. For all of last year, net income rose 19 percent from 2006 to $5.98 billion ($2.57).

Sears Holdings Corp., which owns the Kmart and Sears retail chains, said it is cutting about 200 headquarters jobs as Chairman Edward Lampert tries to bring its overhead costs in line with falling sales. The 200 jobs, which are in support functions, represent about 4 percent of Sears’ 5,000 headquarters employees.

Cephalon Inc. will be accused by U.S. antitrust officials of making illegal deals to delay generic competition to the sleep-disorder drug Provigil, its biggest product, sources said. The Federal Trade Commission plans to challenge patent settlements Cephalon signed with four generic drug companies to postpone competition until 2012.

International

A federal judge in Manhattan confirmed the freezing of $300 million in cash held by Venezuela’s state-run oil company, finding it probable that Exxon Mobil Corp. will succeed in its legal battle against the company. The order came in a case in which Irving, Texas-based Exxon Mobil has battled the oil company over the nationalization of its Venezuelan oil ventures.

Oil futures rose moderately as traders shrugged off a mixed government inventory report and focused on the economy and threats to crude supplies overseas, particularly Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s threat to cut off oil sales to the U.S. Light, sweet crude for March delivery rose 49 cents to settle at $93.27 in New York.

The World Trade Organization issued its first official condemnation of Chinese commercial practices, siding with the United States, the European Union and Canada in a dispute over car parts. The WTO found that China was breaking trade rules by taxing imports of auto parts at the same rate as foreign-made finished cars.

The troubled German bank IKB is to receive a rescue package worth $2.3 billion, to which the government will contribute heavily. IKB has been hurt by subprime mortgage exposure.

German exports to Iran have dropped nearly 26 percent in the past two years in the face of increasing concern over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, according to a new report from Germany’s Economy Ministry. German exports fell from $6.25 billion in 2005 to $4.65 billion in 2007, according to the report.

Subprime-related losses at Japanese banks totaled $5.6 billion for the fiscal year through December, more than doubling the figure posted in September, Japan’s financial watchdog said. The Financial Services Agency also said the banks hold $14.17 billion of subprime-related products, up from September.

From wire dispatches and staff reports


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