- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 22, 2008

National

• Shares of Countrywide Financial Corp., the largest U.S. mortgage lender, have declined 36 percent since the day before it agreed to be bought by Bank of America Corp. on concerns that the takeover may be revised or aborted. “Countrywide is in such turmoil that I think it’s clear Bank of America will price this deal down,” said analyst Paul Miller at Arlington investment firm Friedman Billings Ramsey Group Inc.

• Tablets containing a combination of the blood pressure medication aliskiren and water pill hydrochlorothiazide were approved by the Food and Drug Administration, according to manufacturer Novartis AG. Sold under the name Tekturna in the U.S., the hypertension compound aliskiren was approved in March. It acts by targeting renin, an enzyme responsible for high blood pressure.

Yahoo Inc., owner of the most-visited U.S. Web site, will make cutbacks in some areas of its business as it faces increasing competition from Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp.

Universal Forest Products Inc., the maker of do-it-yourself lumber products that has closed some of its North American plants, said it will permanently shut and sell the facilities because of a slowdown in home building. The shutdowns may result in a charge of about $5.5 million in last year’s fourth quarter.



International

Abu Dhabi Future Energy Co. plans to build what may become the world’s largest project to capture carbon dioxide and pump it into wells to push more oil and gas out. The state-owned company has chosen eight sites to inject about 15 million tons of carbon dioxide a year, a quarter of the emissions from Abu Dhabi, one of seven sheikdoms in the United Arab Emirates.

Brazil‘s state oil company said it discovered a huge natural gas reserve off the coast of Rio de Janeiro that could be as big as the recently discovered giant Tupi oil field. Petroleo Brasileiro SA said that the potential reserves were located about three miles below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean, 23 miles west of the Tupi field.

IP addresses, strings of numbers that identify computers on the Internet, should generally be regarded as personal information, the head of the European Union’s group of data privacy regulators said. Germany’s data protection commissioner, Peter Scharr, leads the EU group preparing a report on how well the privacy policies of Internet search engines operated by Google Inc., Yahoo Inc., Microsoft Corp. and others comply with EU privacy law.

Saudi Telecom (STC) announced a deal to buy 35 percent of the shares of Oger Telecom, which belongs to assassinated Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri’s family, for $2.56 billion. It said the deal, whose finalization is subject to legal review, would allow STC to expand its international activities. Oger Telecom is a subsidiary of Saudi Oger, which was founded by the billionaire Mr. Hariri.

Israel‘s government endorsed the ambitious plan of a private entrepreneur to install the world’s first electric car network by 2011, with half a million recharging stations to crisscross the tiny nation. Supporters hailed the undertaking as a bold step in the effort against global warming and energy dependency, but skeptics warned that much could still go wrong along the way.

Brazil‘s TAM airline said it signed a contract to buy 46 Airbus jets, including 22 extra-wide-body A350s. The European-made A350 is a competitor to the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. TAM Linhas Aereas SA said that the order is worth $6.9 billion at list prices.

• U.S. conglomerate General Electric Co. said it was mulling an offer for Spain‘s second-largest property firm, Colonial, whose share price has slumped recently due to concerns over its financial health. General Electric “confirmed we are studying a possible operation regarding Colonial.” GE already owns property worth $2.2 billion in Spain.

Slovakia will organize a tender for the contract to build new nuclear capacity at its Jaslovske Bohunice site in the west of the country, officials said. Slovakia had to shut down two nuclear reactors under an agreement with Brussels that paved the way for its 2004 European Union entry. The Soviet-designed reactors were deemed a safety risk.

• Billionaire Lakshmi Mittal, the steel tycoon who heads the world’s largest steel maker, and his family will make $935.4 million in dividends from their stake in ArcelorMittal this year, according to the company. Mr. Mittal ranked fifth last year on Forbes magazine’s list of the world’s wealthiest people, with an estimated fortune of $32 billion. The company owns the Sparrows Point steel mill in Baltimore.

Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, the country’s worst-performing bank stock over the past year, may take more write-downs on its U.S. subprime investments after Ambac Financial Group Inc. became the first bond insurer to lose its AAA debt rating, analysts said. Canadian Imperial, which has announced about $3.2 billion in pretax costs from declines in subprime mortgages, may have additional write-downs of as much as $3.87 billion.

• Shares in China’s banks fell sharply after press reports said its No. 2 lender, Bank of China, might write down holdings of U.S. mortgage securities and two others increased reserves for possible losses. The reports were the first indication that Chinese lenders, which have so far avoided damage from the U.S. credit crisis, might face problems due to their holdings of subprime securities.

Sanyo Electric Co. says it will sell its troubled mobile-phone operations to Kyocera Corp. in a deal between two Japanese companies worth about $467 million including debt.

OAO Gazprom, the Russian gas monopoly, will decide whether to proceed with its planned liquefied natural gas plant near St. Petersburg in the first half of February at the earliest. Demand for LNG, natural gas that is cooled to a liquid for transportation, is growing. Only two new production plants were sanctioned last year, out of a possible 14 worldwide.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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