Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Dec 30, 2009 5:09 PM

Govt gives GMAC $3.8 billion in new aid

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The government is providing a fresh $3.8 billion cash infusion to stabilize GMAC Financial Services as it struggles with hefty losses in its home mortgage unit.

The Treasury Department says the new aid, which comes from a taxpayer-financed bailout fund, is less than the roughly $6 billion the government had earlier thought GMAC would need to stabilize the company.

The fresh infusion is on top of $12.5 billion in taxpayer money Detroit-based GMAC has already received from the government. The new agreement will boost the federal government's ownership in GMAC to 56 percent, from 35 percent.

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US moves to place new duties on steel from China

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The U.S. government is imposing new duties on imports of steel pipes from China, the latest sign of trade tensions between the two countries.

The case is the largest steel trade dispute in U.S. history and will impact about $2.8 billion worth of Chinese imports.

A group of U.S. steelmakers and the United Steelworkers union sought the duties in April, arguing that the Chinese steel industry was flooding the U.S. market with pipes sold at unfairly low prices, a practice known as "dumping."

The Chinese companies also benefited from government subsidies, the U.S. industry said.

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AIG says general counsel Kelly resigns over pay

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) _ American International Group Inc. says it has lost a top executive due to the government's limits on executive pay.

AIG said Wednesday that vice chairman and general counsel Anastasia Kelly is resigning, effective immediately.

Kelly left because of the reduction in her base salary that was mandated by the government's pay czar Kenneth Feinberg, AIG said. Companies like AIG that hold government bailout funds are subject to restrictions including limits on executive pay.

The government has given AIG a bailout package worth up to $182.5 billion in exchange for an 80 percent stake in the New York-based company.

AIG also said Suzanne Folsom, chief compliance and regulatory officer, has left. It did not give a reason for her departure.

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Stocks little changed as dollar strengthens

NEW YORK (AP) _ Stocks ended the next-to-last day of 2009 little changed as welcome news on manufacturing helped offset a drop in commodities prices.

The market drew support Wednesday from a key economic indicator that signaled growth in the Midwest manufacturing industry for a third straight month. The Chicago Purchasing Managers Index rose to 60 in December from 56.1 in November. The report showed that production and new orders increased and employment improved.

A rising dollar and light volume held the market's gains in check. A jump in the dollar makes commodities, and thus the shares of companies that produce commodities, less attractive to foreign buyers.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 3.10, or less than 0.1 percent, to 10,548.51.

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Guide to breaking cell phone security revealed

FRANKFURT (AP) _ A German security expert has raised the ire of the cell phone industry after he and a group of researchers posted online a how-to guide for cracking the encryption that keeps the calls of GSM-standard cell phone users secret.

Karsten Nohl, 28, told The Associated Press this week that he, working with others online and around the world, created a codebook showing how to get past the GSM encryption used to keep conversations on more than 3 billion mobile phones safe from prying ears. Nohl said the purpose was to push companies to improve security.

GSM, the leading cell phone technology around the world, is used by several wireless carriers in the U.S., with the largest being AT&T Inc. and T-Mobile USA. Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel Corp. use a different standard.

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Oil prices up as supply falls for 4th week

NEW YORK (AP) _ Oil prices edged above $79 a barrel Wednesday as the nation's crude supply fell for the fourth week in a row.

Gasoline supplies also fell unexpectedly and the contract for January delivery, which expires Thursday, neared a yearly high.

After weeks of declines, prices at the pump appeared to be catching up to crude, which has risen 7.3 percent since Dec 21.

Retail gas prices began to tick higher over the weekend and are now on the longest upward streak since October. They jumped another 1.5 cents overnight to a new national average of $2.623 a gallon, according to auto club AAA, Wright Express and Oil Price Information Service.

Gas is still a penny cheaper than last month, however, and increases have been slight.

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GM continues with Saab shutdown as talks continue

NEW YORK (AP) _ General Motors Co. is pressing ahead with plans to shut down Saab, though it will continue to hear bids for the Swedish car brand, a company spokesman said Wednesday.

Tom Wilkinson said the automaker is not commenting on reports that a deadline for proposals for Saab has been extended to Jan. 7. GM had previously said it was giving bidders until Thursday to come forward with an offer for Saab until it decided earlier this month that it would wind down the brand.

Saab spokeswoman Gunilla Gustavs said GM's decision to wind down Saab still stands, though it will still entertain bids. Dec. 31 is "no longer a magical date" where a GM decision should be expected, Gustavs said.

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Aetna expects up to $65 million charge in 4Q

NEW YORK (AP) _ Health insurer Aetna Inc. said Wednesday it expects a fourth-quarter charge of up to $65 million to cover costs for a previously announced series of layoffs and office consolidations.

In November, the company announced plans to cut 625 jobs, or nearly 2 percent of its staff. It also said it would make a similar number of cuts by the end of 2010.

Aetna, based in Hartford, Conn., expects to employ about 34,300 employees when the layoffs are complete in the first quarter of 2010.

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Kraft, Cadbury agree on new disclosure deadline

LONDON (AP) _ The U.K. Takeover Panel said Wednesday that it had extended the deadline to allow British chocolate and candy maker Cadbury PLC to disclose any new information about the bid by Kraft Foods Inc. to acquire it.

Cadbury had faced a deadline of Jan. 12 for publishing new information about the hostile takeover, but the Takeover Panel agreed to extend that to Jan. 15 to allow Cadbury to publish estimated trading results for 2009.

Kraft has made a cash and shares offer worth 9.8 billion pounds ($16.3 billion).

The last date for Kraft to revise its offer remains Jan. 19, and it has until Feb. 2 to get acceptance of its offer from holders of a majority of Cadbury shares.

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Top GM lobbyist to step down in DC office shake-up

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The top lobbyist at General Motors Co. will retire next year and will be replaced by a former lobbyist at AT&T in a shake-up at the automaker's Washington office.

Ken Cole, who has been GM's vice president for government relations and public policy since 2001, will step down Jan. 1 and will remain as an adviser for several months until permanently retiring early next year, the company said Wednesday.

He will be replaced by Robert E. Ferguson, a senior strategist at the Texas PR firm Public Strategies Inc. and a former lobbyist at AT&T Inc., the telecommunications giant once run by current GM Chairman and CEO Ed Whitacre Jr.

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JAL shares dive to record low on bankruptcy fears

TOKYO (AP) _ Shares of struggling Japan Airlines Corp. nosedived to a record low Wednesday on growing fears the money-losing carrier could be put through bankruptcy court as part of restructuring.

Asia's biggest airline, known as JAL, closed down 24 percent at 67 yen on the last trading day for 2009 on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Earlier in the day, JAL plunged 32 percent to 60 yen.

Wednesday's finish marked a staggering fall from JAL's closing price of 213 yen at the beginning of this year.

By The Associated Press

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 3.10, or less than 0.1 percent, to 10,548.51.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 0.22, or less than 0.1 percent, to 1,126.42, while the Nasdaq composite index rose 2.88, or 0.1 percent, to 2,291.28.

Benchmark crude for February delivery added 41 cents to settle at $79.28 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In London, Brent crude for February delivery rose 39 cents to settle at $78.03 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

In other Nymex trading, heating oil for January delivery added less than a penny to settle at $2.1093 a gallon, and gasoline for rose 3 cents to settle at $2.0406 a gallon. Natural gas for February delivery gave up 13.1 cents to settle at $5.709 per 1,000 cubic feet.