Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Today's Headlines

2 Homebuilders Merge in $1.3 Billion Deal

NYT - In a transaction that would create the nation’s largest homebuilder, Pulte Homes and Centex said Wednesday that they would merge in a $1.3 billion stock-for-stock deal.The transaction valued by the companies at $3.1 billion, includes $1.8 billion in debt.The two companies are hoping that the merger will help them survive a severe slump in the housing market that has helped lengthen a recession that started in December 2007. Homebuilders have sharply cut back construction and prices as they try to reduce inventories. Centex lost $664 million in the quarter that ended in December while Pulte reported a $338.2 million loss. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/09/business/09build.html

They Pay for Cable, Music and Extra Bags. How About News?

NYT - Just a year ago, most media companies believed the formula for Internet success was to offer free content, build an audience and rake in advertising dollars. Now, with the recession battering advertising online, in print and on television, media executives are contemplating a tougher trick: making the consumer pay. Publishers like Hearst Newspapers, The New York Times and Time Inc.are drawing up plans for possible Internet fees. Jeffrey L. Bewkes, Time Warner’s chief executive, is promoting a plan called “TV Everywhere,” to offer consumers a vast array of television online, provided they are paying cable TV customers. And Rupert Murdoch, who once vowed to make The Wall Street Journal’s Web site free, is now an evangelist for charging readers.http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/08/business/media/08pay.html


Magazines Blur Line Between Ad and Article


NYT -If the separation between magazines’ editorial and advertising sides was once a gulf, it is now diminished to the size of a sidewalk crack.Recent issues of Entertainment Weekly, Esquire, Time, People, ESPN the Magazine, Scholastic Parent & Child and other magazines have woven in advertisers in new ways, some going as far as putting ads on their covers. In a medium like television, a partnership with advertisers is nothing surprising — look at how often plastic bags and containers from Glad are featured on “Top Chef.” But in magazines, the editorial and advertising sides have stayed distinct, largely because of the American Society of Magazine Editors. The society hands out the annual National Magazine Awards, and its guidelines govern how editorial content and advertising should be kept separate. Cover ads are prohibited.http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/08/business/media/08adco.html

Big GM Bondholder Sells Its Stake

NYT -As talk continues to circulate about the likelihood of a General Motors bankruptcy, one of G.M.’s significant bondholders has shed the bulk of its holdings, according to a regulatory filing.The bondholder, Southeastern Asset Management, and its investment group, Longleaf Partners, both of Memphis, now hold 9.6 percent of G.M.’s Series B bonds, Southeastern said Tuesday in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.Southeastern held 33 percent of G.M.’s Series B bonds as recently as September. Its bonds were convertible to 13.2 million G.M. common shares, or about 2.3 percent of G.M. stock, according to Bloomberg News.http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/08/business/08gm.html


As Room Rates Sink, Sleepless Nights for Hotel Investors


NYT - In San Francisco, prices of hotel rooms have “gone off a cliff,” said Karl Hoagland, chairman of Larkspur Hotels and Restaurants. Softening demand has led some luxury hotels to offer rooms for less than $100 a night.“It’s a great windfall for travelers,” said Mr. Hoagland, whose company owns three hotels in the city’s Union Square neighborhood.But it is anything but a windfall for Mr. Hoagland. His company paid about $100 million for the three hotels, in 2006 and 2007. “It was a pretty big bet on San Francisco,” he said.http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/08/business/08hotel.html

Consumer Borrowing Declined in February

WASHINGTON (AP) — Consumer borrowing plunged in February at a 3.5 percent annual rate, more than analysts had expected, as Americans cut back their use of credit cards by a record amount.The Federal Reserve said Tuesday that consumer borrowing dropped at an annual rate of $7.48 billion in February from January, which amounts to a 3.5 percent annual rate of decline. Wall Street economists expected borrowing to slide by only $1 billion, according to a survey by Thomson Reuters. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/08/business/economy/08econ.html

Judge Orders Probe of Prosecutors

WSJ - WASHINGTON -- A federal judge ordered a criminal investigation into prosecutorial misconduct in the trial of former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, and suggested that the botched case exposed a deeper problem at the Justice Department.U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan appointed a special prosecutor to look into possible criminal contempt-of-court charges against six federal prosecutors who the judge said withheld evidence from defense lawyers.Judge Sullivan erased the corruption conviction of Mr. Stevens and dismissed the case, in line with a request last week by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. A federal jury in October convicted Mr. Stevens on seven counts of failing to disclose free home renovations and other gifts from friends. The verdict came just eight days before Election Day, and the Republican lost his re-election bid by fewer than 4,000 votes, handing Democrats a crucial seat in the Senate.http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123911047345896733.html

Pirates Seize U.S.-Flagged Ship

WSJ - DUBAI -- Pirates on Wednesday seized a U.S.-flagged container vessel off the coast of Somalia, raising the stakes for American naval commanders battling a recent surge of attacks in the region. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Fifth Fleet in Bahrain said the attack took place early Wednesday about 240 nautical miles southeast of the pirate haven of Eyl, Somalia. The Navy didn't release detailed information about the ship, but A.P. Moller Maersk, the Danish shipping giant, identified the vessel as the Maersk Alabama, a large container ship.http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123918590857500753.html

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