Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Dec 19, 2011 6:12 PM
Business Highlights

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AT&T agrees to drop bid for T-Mobile

DALLAS (AP) _ AT&T says it is ending its $39 billion bid to buy T-Mobile USA after facing fierce government objections.

The cellphone giant said Monday that the actions of the government to block the deal do not change the challenges of the wireless phone industry, which it says requires more airwaves to expand.

AT&T's purchase of T-Mobile from Deutsche Telekom of Germany would have made it the largest cellphone company in the U.S. AT&T is currently the country's second-largest wireless carrier, while T-Mobile is the fourth-largest.

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At gas pump, 2011 was the year of the big squeeze

NEW YORK (AP) _ It's been 30 years since gasoline took such a big bite out of the family budget.

When the gifts from Grandma are unloaded and holiday travel is over, the typical American household will have spent $4,155 filling up this year, a record. That is 8.4 percent of what the median family takes in, the highest share since 1981.

Gas averaged more than $3.50 a gallon this year, another unfortunate record. And next year isn't likely to bring relief.

In the past, high gas prices in the United States have gone hand-in-hand with economic good times, making them less damaging to family finances. Now prices are high despite slow economic growth and weak demand.

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With new generic rivals, Lipitor's sales halved

NEW YORK (AP) _ New data show sales of cholesterol blockbuster Lipitor plunged by half barely a week after the world's top-selling drug got its first U.S. generic competition.

That's despite a very aggressive effort by Lipitor maker Pfizer Inc. to keep patients on its pill, which once generated sales of $13 billion a year. Pfizer has been contracting with insurance plans to subsidize both patient copayments and costs for insurers, to keep their costs at or below what generic Lipitor would cost.

Lipitor lost U.S. patent protection on Nov. 30, and two generic versions costing about one-third less are now available.

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US homebuilders less gloomy despite few buyers

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Rising interest from would-be buyers is leaving U.S. homebuilders less pessimistic about the housing market. But tighter lending standards are still keeping many potential buyers from purchasing new homes.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index rose two points to 21 in December. That's the highest level since May 2010. It's just the second time the index has been at 20 or above in two years.

Still, any reading below 50 indicates negative sentiment about the housing market. The index hasn't reached 50 since April 2006, the peak of the housing boom.

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Winn-Dixie Stores sold to Bi-Lo for $560 million

GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) _ The supermarket chain Winn-Dixie is being sold in a deal valued at $560 million to Bi-Lo LLC, the companies said Monday, creating a huge grocery operator in the South.

Shares of Winn-Dixie, which has more than twice the number of stores of its buyer, jumped about 70 percent in early trading. The company had struggled in the past, entering into bankruptcy protection in 2005, but has been revamping operations in recent years.

The combined company will have about 690 stores and 63,000 workers in eight states in the southern U.S. Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. will become a privately held subsidiary and its ticker will be removed from the Nasdaq. Bi-Lo is a private company.

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Saab declares bankruptcy as GM blocks Chinese deal

STOCKHOLM (AP) _ After six decades of building cars renowned for their teardrop designs and quirky features, cash-strapped Saab Automobile gave up its desperate struggle for a lifeline Monday and filed for bankruptcy.

Saab CEO Victor Muller said "the last nail in the coffin" was previous owner General Motors Co.'s rejection of a Chinese company's attempts to gain control of the ailing Swedish brand. Muller personally handed over the bankruptcy petition to a Swedish court, which approved it late Monday.

Though a theoretical chance remains for a new buyer to step in during the bankruptcy process, analysts said Saab's troubles underline how difficult it is for a small, niched carmaker to survive in today's competitive global market.

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Saudi prince invests $300 million in Twitter

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) _ Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and his investment company said Monday they are investing a combined $300 million into Twitter, increasing the microblogging site's cash cushion as its user base expands.

Alwaleed's joint investment with his Kingdom Holding Co. follows months of negotiations and will give them a "strategic stake" in Twitter, according to the Riyadh, Saudi Arabia-based investment firm. It wasn't clear how much of Twitter the prince will control.

Alwaleed, a nephew of the Saudi king, ranks 26th on Forbes' list of the world's richest people. He has a history of investing in media and technology companies, and said the deal represents an interest "in promising, high-growth businesses with a global impact."

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EU fails to reach $260 billion IMF loan target

BRUSSELS (AP) _ European Union finance ministers have come up $65.19 billion short of their goal of providing the International Monetary Fund with $260.78 billion to help heavily indebted nations avoid default

The eurozone will provide an extra $195 billion to the IMF through bilateral loans, Jean-Claude Juncker, the prime minister of Luxembourg, who also chairs the meetings of the currency union's finance ministers, said in a statement Monday.

Greece, Ireland and Portugal, which have received multibillion euro bailouts, won't have to contribute to the IMF loans.

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Kodak patent ruling delayed amid cash worries

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) _ A U.S. arbiter for trade disputes is delaying a ruling on Eastman Kodak Co.'s high-stakes patent-infringement claim against smartphone makers Apple Inc. and Research in Motion Ltd.

The embattled photography pioneer is trying to negotiate a licensing deal it estimates could be worth up to $1 billion.

An administrative judge overseeing the two-year dispute at the U.S. International Trade Commission set a new target date of Sept. 21, 2012. The commission in Washington, D.C., had previously expected to issue a final decision by Dec. 30.

A favorable ruling would be a boon to Kodak. Pummeled by Wall Street over its dwindling cash reserves _ and its stumbling attempts to reinvent itself as a profitable player in digital imaging and printing _ the Rochester, N.Y., company warned last month it could run out of cash in a year if it doesn't raise new financing or sell assets.

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NYTimes Co. in talks to sell regional newspapers

NEW YORK (AP) _ The New York Times Co. is in advanced talks to sell all of its small, regional publications.

The company said Monday that Halifax Media Holdings LLC., owner of the Daytona Beach News-Journal in Florida, is preparing to purchase the Times' Regional Media Group division. The unit consists of 16 regional newspapers, including The Press Democrat in Santa Rosa, Calif., the News Chief in Winter Haven, Fla., and The Tuscaloosa News in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed.

The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The International Herald Tribune and the About Group are not part of the sale.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones Industrial average lost 100.13 points, or 0.8 percent to close at 11,766.26. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 14.31 points, or 1.2 percent, to 1,205.35. The Nasdaq composite index fell 32.19 points, or 1.3 percent, to 2,523.14.

Benchmark crude on Monday rose 35 cents to end at $93.88 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, which is used to price foreign oil that's imported by U.S. refineries, rose 29 cents to finish at $103.64 per barrel in London.

In other energy trading, heating oil fell 2 cents to end at $2.78 per gallon, and gasoline futures were virtually unchanged at $2.4891 per gallon. Natural gas fell 3 cents to finish at $3.096 per 1,000 cubic feet.