- The Washington Times - Friday, February 15, 2008

Regional

Northrop Grumman Corp. and General Dynamics of Falls Church, the Navy’s two biggest shipbuilders, received separate contracts valued at a combined $2.7 billion to start building a new fleet of seven destroyers, the Pentagon said. The Navy estimates each of the first two DDG-1000 Zumwalt class of destroyers will cost $3.1 billion.

Billionaire investor Carl Icahn and Legg Mason fund manager Bill Miller bought stakes in J.C. Penney, the third-largest U.S. department-store chain, while its shares fell 31 percent in the final three months of 2007. Legg Mason’s 4.6 percent stake, or 10.2 million shares, makes it the second-largest outside shareholder. Mr. Icahn purchased 4.17 million shares.

Legg Mason’s Bill Miller increased his stake in Yahoo in the fourth quarter, just before an unsolicited bid for the Internet company by Microsoft Inc. sent the shares surging by as much as 57 percent. Baltimore-based Legg Mason, the second-biggest shareholder of Yahoo, added 4.2 million shares in the Internet company in the quarter and now holds 83.8 million.

Foundation Coal of Linthicum Heights, Md., said net income for the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31 increased 372 percent to $10.4 million (22 cents per share) from $2.2 million (5 cents) a year ago.

Orbital Sciences of Sterling, Va., said its net income for the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31 increased 26 percent to $15.8 million (26 cents) from $12.5 million (20 cents) a year ago.

Strayer Education Inc. of Arlington said its net income for the fourth quartered Dec. 31 increased 22 percent to $19.5 million ($1.34) from $16 million ($1.11) a year ago.

National

Sales of existing homes fell in 45 states during the October-December quarter, with metropolitan areas showing growing weakness, the National Association of Realtors said. The data underscores the breadth of the housing market’s slump. South Dakota was the only state to show a sales increase. Sales also fell in the District.

California home sales tumbled to the lowest level in more than 20 years last month, and many areas posted hefty price declines as buyers met difficulty obtaining financing for jumbo mortgages or held off on entering the turbulent housing market. A total of 19,145 homes were purchased statewide last month, a 41 percent drop from January 2007.

GMAC, the auto and mortgage lender controlled by Cerberus Capital Management, may face a crisis if credit markets don’t improve for a prolonged period, said Stephen Feinberg, founder of the private-equity firm.

Comcast Corp., the cable giant pressured by investors to boost returns, said it will buy back $6.9 billion of its stock over two years and pay its first dividend in almost a decade, sending the shares up $1.43, or 8 percent, to $19.24, the biggest gain since 2002. Fourth-quarter net income rose 54 percent to $602 million (20 cents), Philadelphia-based Comcast said. Sales gained 14 percent to $8.01 billion.

News Corp. may pay James Murdoch, the son of Chairman Rupert Murdoch, almost $20 million this year, following his promotion to chief executive of the media company’s Europe and Asia operations. James Murdoch will get a salary of $3.4 million and may receive as much as $12.5 million a year in a performance-based bonus linked to the company’s stock price, News Corp. said.

A former Morgan Stanley broker purportedly stole almost $400,000 from a 97-year-old philanthropist while she was terminally ill, New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram and U.S. brokerage regulators said. John Mullins misappropriated the funds while he and his wife, Kathleen Mullins, were handling the widow’s assets at the company’s Morgan Stanley DW subsidiary in Northfield, N.J., Ms. Milgram’s office said.

United Auto Workers President Ron Gettelfinger says he expects 15,000 to 20,000 General Motors workers to take the company’s latest round of early retirement and buyout offers. But he says the number is lower than what it would have been in better economic times. GM is offering buyout or early retirement packages to all 74,000 of its UAW-represented work force.

Oil futures extended their upward march after new trade deficit figures fed optimism that the economy may dodge a serious downturn. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke’s suggestion that the central bank is prepared to again cut interest rates also boosted oil prices. Light, sweet crude for March delivery rose $1.50 to $94.77 a barrel in New York, a one-month high.

International

Petroleos de Venezuela may be unable to finance its $70 billion expansion plan because some of its assets are frozen in a legal dispute with Exxon Mobil Corp., according to bond-rating firm Fitch Inc. “From a sovereign standpoint, PDVSA has an investment plan that will now be very difficult to finance with the limitations that this asset freeze can potentially impose on its liquidity,” Fitch wrote.

From wire dispatches and staff reports


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