- - Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Holiday Inn parent to launch new brand

NEW YORK | Holiday Inn’s parent company is developing a new hotel chain aimed at travelers who want to work out and eat healthfully on the road.

U.K.-based InterContinental Hotels Group PLC said Tuesday it will launch a hotel brand called Even for health-conscious travelers. The hotels will have guest rooms with space to exercise and amenities such as hypoallergenic linens and healthier food options.

The midpriced chain will have gyms in the lobby behind the front desk as well as a “marketplace” in the lobby that will offer food including smoothies and burgers.

Rooms will have traditional features that also can be used to work out, such as a weight bench that’s replaced a luggage rack at the foot of the bed, or a coat rack that’s built strong enough to double as a pull-up bar. Rooms also will feature LED dimmers, natural lighting and anti-bacterial wipes.

The company, which also operates Intercontinental, Crowne Plaza and Candlewood Suites, expects to sign franchise deals for 100 Even hotels within the next five years. IHG plans to announce the location of the first Even hotel this spring and expects the first hotel to open in early 2013. The first hotels are expected to be in big markets such as Los Angeles and San Francisco in the West and New York, Boston and Washington, D.C., in the East.

Rooms will be more expensive than at Holiday Inns but will vary widely depending on the location, IHG CEO Richard Solomons said in an interview with the Associated Press. Mr. Solomons said the company plans eventually to expand the brand overseas but it will remain only in the U.S. at first.

The idea for the new hotel brand came from customer feedback. Many lamented that they “fall off the wagon” while traveling and want a way to stay healthy while on business trips or vacations, Mr. Solomons said.


Bank earnings hit five-year high

A surge in earnings by the biggest banks at the end of last year made 2011 the most profitable time for the industry in five years. More earnings and fewer troubled banks suggest the industry has healed since the 2008 financial crisis.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said Tuesday that bank earnings rose in the October-December quarter to $26.3 billion. That’s 23 percent higher than earnings in the final quarter of 2010. About 63 percent of banks reported improved earnings. Just 19 percent were unprofitable.

For the year, earnings hit $119.5 billion - the most since 2006.

Banks with assets exceeding $10 billion accounted for almost all of the earnings growth in the fourth quarter. While they make up just 1.4 percent of U.S. banks, they accounted for more than 81 percent of the earnings.

Those banks include Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo & Co. Most of them have recovered with help from federal bailout money and record-low borrowing rates.

Many of those same banks complained last year that new regulations mandated by Congress have hurt their ability to make money and moved to charge new fees to make up the difference.

The effort sparked a backlash among consumers and fueled anti-Wall Street protests. Ultimately, the big banks dropped plans to charge customers for using their debit cards. Other fees have remained.


Grand jury probes MF Global’s lost money

A financial exchange operator says it was subpoenaed by a Chicago grand jury investigating missing cash at MF Global, the failed securities firm that was run by former New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine.

CME Group Inc. said in an annual report Tuesday that the grand jury demanded documents and witnesses related to MF Global’s failure. It said a separate subpoena came from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the lead federal agency investigating the case.

The grand jury probe had not been reported.

Regulators and authorities are trying to find out how $1.6 billion of client cash went missing from MF Global as it spiraled into bankruptcy.

CME Group runs exchanges where MF Global traded and was partly responsible for auditing the firm’s books.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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