- The Washington Times - Friday, March 21, 2008

Regional

AOL is selling its 1,200-seat call center business in India to Aegis Communications in an all-cash deal worth about $100 million, sources close to the deal told the Times of India. A deal could be announced as early as today.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin J. Martin asked his staff to start drafting documents on the proposed combination of District-based XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. and Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. and said a decision might not come this quarter.

Media General Inc., publisher of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, said a decline in sales last month will lead to a first-quarter loss of 40 cents to 45 cents a share — bigger than analysts expect.

A bankruptcy judge ordered a trustee to take over USProtect Corp., a Silver Spring security company that collapsed amid a multimillion federal contract-rigging scandal. USProtect provided security guards to federal office buildings and courthouses. Wachovia Bank asked the judge to step in, claiming USProtect’s management was “nonexistent” after the company’s owner, Lisa D. Hudec, fired its accountant and financial advisers last week and several other key executives resigned.

General Dynamics Corp., the Falls Church contractor, won a $324.9 million order to purchase parts for two Virginia-class nuclear submarines.

Norfolk Southern Corp., which gets more of its revenue from carrying autos than any other large U.S. railroad, said its volume is being hurt by a strike at auto-parts supplier American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings Inc. The carrier’s auto-related volume is down 6.7 percent so far this year, the Association of American Railroads said.

National

Gold prices tumbled to a one-month low, plunging after the dollar gained some muscle against the euro and hedge funds cashed in profits following the metal’s record-setting rally above $1,000. Gold for April delivery lost $25.30 to settle at $920 an ounce on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after earlier falling as low as $904.70 — its lowest level since Feb. 19.

Rates on 30-year mortgages dropped below 6 percent this week for the first time in more than a month, reflecting aggressive efforts by the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates to protect the economy from a serious recession. Freddie Mac, the McLean mortgage company, reported that 30-year fixed rate mortgages averaged 5.87 percent this week, down from 6.13 percent last week.

Rep. Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, wants to give either the Federal Reserve or a new regulator the power to oversee the activities of major financial players, regardless of whether they are a bank, securities firm or hedge fund. The Massachusetts Democrat made the proposal in a speech to a business group in Boston.

Wall Street investment companies are taking advantage of the Federal Reserve’s unprecedented offer to secure emergency loans, the central bank reported. The unidentified firms averaged $13.4 billion in daily borrowing over the past week from the new lending facility.

Federal energy regulators approved a $700 million liquefied natural gas terminal proposed for Long Island Sound, a facility opposed by the state of Connecticut and other critics who say it would damage the environment and be vulnerable to a terrorist attack. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission voted 5-0 to approve the terminal, which would be located 9 miles from Long Island and 10 miles from Connecticut.

Federal-Mogul Corp. insurers may have to pay more than $500 million for asbestos damages under the Chapter 11 plan that got the company out of bankruptcy last year, a bankruptcy judge ruled.

Carnival Corp. said first-quarter profit fell 17 percent to $236 million, (30 cents a share) because of rising fuel costs. Fuel prices increased 66 percent to $499 per metric ton for the quarter, compared to $301 per metric ton a year ago, the company reported.

Motor-home manufacturer Winnebago Industries Inc. said its second-quarter profit fell nearly 67 percent to $2.5 million (9 cents) as consumer confidence in the economy helped drag down sales of recreational vehicles. High fuel prices hurt, too. Filling up the tank of one of Winnebago’s largest motor homes would cost more than $400 today, about 47 percent more than a year ago.

FedEx Corp. reported a 6 percent drop in third-quarter earnings to $393 million ($1.26), saying a slow economy and high fuel prices are expected to continue cutting into profits.

Children’s Place Retail Stores Inc. is ready to let the Walt Disney Co. take back control of about two-thirds of the 335 stores in the Disney Store chain. About 115 remaining stores are expected to close.

Gibson Guitar Corp. sued Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and five other major retailers that sell the Activision “Guitar Hero” game, claiming it violates a patent it holds. Gibson has already tried to stop video game publisher Activision Inc. from selling all versions of the game, claiming it too closely matches a musical virtual-reality patent from 1999.

News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch has made a bid for Tribune Co.’s Newsday on Long Island, Crain’s New York Business said, citing an unidentified person in the newspaper industry. Mr. Murdoch tried to establish a joint operating agreement between his own New York Post and Newsday a year ago, before Tribune was sold.

PageSix.com, an online gossip site owned by News Corp.’s New York Post, shut down just three months after it launched. Eighteen editorial and support staffers of the site were fired, and three will be reassigned within the New York Post, a spokeswoman said.

A group of newspaper publishers said it was joining an industry-backed online advertising sales effort aimed at winning more business from national advertisers. The newspapers owned by the new affiliates to the venture called QuadrantOne doubles the size of the network to about 250 newspapers. New members include McClatchy Co., A.H. Belo Corp. and Media General Inc.

International

AB Volvo will pay back the profits that two of its subsidiaries made under the oil-for-food program in Iraq — plus a fine of $19.6 million — to avoid prosecution by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice, the Swedish truck maker said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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