- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are expected to get further financial leeway from the government, enabling the mortgage-finance companies to expand their roles in the stricken housing market. The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight is discussing an arrangement in which the $20 billion cash cushion they are required to maintain could be reduced, several sources said.

• Several W.R. Grace & Co. lenders have refused to continue offering bankruptcy loans to the company, forcing the Columbia, Md., chemical company to cut back its Chapter 11 finance package from $250 million to $200 million, company attorney Janet Baer told the presiding bankruptcy judge.

Lockheed Martin Corp. of Bethesda and General Dynamics Corp. of Falls Church have made disappointing progress building what was envisioned as a low-cost warship for supporting troops close to shore, a Pentagon official said. Cost growth with the first two Littoral Combat Ships of as much as 150 percent complicates the Navy’s plans to buy more destroyers and aircraft carriers.

• The American Trucking Association, an Arlington industry group, projected a record high diesel fuel bill in 2008. ATA said the trucking industry will spend $135 billion on fuel this year, based on current fuel price forecasts — a $22 billion increase over $112.6 billion last year.

NCI Inc. of Reston, a provider of technology and engineering services to federal agencies, said it completed its acquisition of certain assets of MTC Technologies Inc. The acquisition will help NCI fulfill three defense contracts worth $238.5 million.


• The parent company of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board of Trade said it would buy the New York Mercantile Exchange in a $9.4 billion cash-and-stock deal that melds the nation’s two largest futures exchanges. CME Group Inc. agreed to pay $3.4 billion in cash and about $6 billion in stock for Nymex Holdings Inc.

H&R; Block Inc. of Kansas City, Mo., said it agreed to sell its troubled mortgage servicing business for $1.1 billion to billionaire investor Wilbur Ross. Option One Mortgage Corp. services about $53 billion of subprime mortgages, ranking it the fourth-largest servicer in the nation.

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, said Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. may back his plan to let the government insure “distressed” mortgages. “There’s a greater receptivity to this idea than there was 48 hours ago,” Mr. Dodd said.

American Home Mortgage Investment Corp. secured lenders have reached a deal with unsecured creditors over how to divide up cash raised in the failed Philadelphia company’s bankruptcy liquidation. Banks led by Bank of America Corp. have agreed to take the first $1.02 billion and split anything over that with creditors.

Standard & Poor’s lowered AAA credit ratings on $5.6 billion of mortgage bonds sold in 2006, saying that the debt does not have a big enough safety margin against default to support a top ranking. S&P; previously downgraded 59 classes of residential mortgage-backed securities issued since July 2005.

General Motors Corp., the world’s largest automaker, is being reviewed by Standard & Poor’s for a possible debt-rating downgrade because of the strike at supplier American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings Inc.

• A bankruptcy judge gave Delphi permission to subpoena investors who may have been short-selling the auto parts maker’s stock or debt. Lawyers looking into the matter said Delphi received information that “one or more investors may have been trading in or shorting one of more of Delphi’s outstanding public securities.”

Delta Air Lines‘ pilots union told company executives that it was unable to agree on seniority issues with its counterpart at Northwest Airlines, raising serious doubts about the prospect of a combination of the two companies.

Northwest Airlines matched the fare increase announced last week by Continental and United and signaled that belt-tightening measures are on the way as a result of record high oil prices.

• A federal appeals court ordered a new trial for former Qwest Chief Executive Officer Joe Nacchio, saying the trial judge wrongly excluded expert testimony important to Nacchio’s defense in his insider-trading case. The court also ordered a new judge to hear Nacchio’s case. Prosecutors said Nacchio sold stock when he knew the company was at financial risk but didn’t tell investors.

• Toy distributor Mega Brands Inc. recalled about 2.4 million Chinese-made toys because small magnets could fall out and cause internal injuries if swallowed or inhaled by children.

• A security breach at an East Coast supermarket chain exposed 4.2 million credit and debit card numbers and led to 1,800 cases of fraud, the Hannaford Bros. grocery chain announced. Hannaford said that credit and debit card numbers were stolen during the card authorization process and that about 4.2 million unique account numbers were exposed.

Pilgrim’s Pride Corp., the world’s biggest poultry processor, must face a class-action lawsuit over claims it failed to pay workers overtime wages, an Arkansas judge ruled. Current and former employees at 21 plants in 10 states can join to bring claims that the company refused to compensate them for the time spent putting on, taking off and cleaning safety and sanity gear.

Verizon Communications Inc., the second-largest U.S. telephone company, reported 2007 compensation of $26.6 million for Chief Executive Officer Ivan Seidenberg, a 25 percent rise from the year earlier. Mr. Seidenberg’s salary remained the same, at $2.1 million. The 61-year-old’s compensation included $19.2 million in stock awards, up from $13.1 million last year.

Blackstone Group LP, manager of the world’s largest buyout fund, rejected Alliance Data Systems Corp.’s offer to accept a lower takeover price to speed completion of the transaction, according to Alliance Data. Blackstone, which agreed in May to buy Alliance Data for $6.6 billion, has breached the contract by delaying efforts to win regulatory approval, the Dallas credit-card processor said.

McClatchy Co., the publisher of the Sacramento Bee and 29 other daily newspapers, said last month’s revenue fell 12 percent, led by a 13 percent decline in advertising sales. California and Florida, where McClatchy owns eight daily newspapers, accounted for a majority of the drop, the Sacramento-based publisher said, as real estate and employment advertising shrinks in its two biggest markets.


• The world’s largest printing plant has begun cranking out newspapers for Rupert Murdoch’s News International — a vote of confidence in Britain’s troubled newspaper industry. In Broxbourne, England, 20 miles north of London, the plant will print the company’s four British papers, including the racy Sun and News of the World and the more sober Times and Sunday Times.

• The European Union chose a mobile TV broadcast standard and suggested that its member governments now ask cell carriers to favor it. EU commissioners chose DVB-H, or Digital Video Broadcasting for Handhelds, the most widely used mobile TV format in Europe, over rival standards such as Qualcomm’s MediaFLO and another known as DMB that is favored in China and South Korea.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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