Business Digest


March 22, 2005

In The Region

Host Marriott Corp. is raising dividend to 8 cents next month

Host Marriott Corp., the largest U.S. hotel real estate investment trust, will increase its quarterly dividend by 60 percent as travel to its hotels rises.

The 8-cents-a-share dividend on common stock will be paid April 15 to investors who hold shares as of March 31, the Bethesda-based company said yesterday. Host Marriott previously paid a dividend of a nickel a share.

Real estate investment trusts such as Host Marriott have to pay out at least 90 percent of their taxable income to investors in the form of dividends. Host Marriott owned 111 hotels at the end of 2004.


Qwest, Verizon chiefs duel in letters over bids for MCI

The takeover fight for MCI took another twist yesterday when the chairmen of Qwest Communications and Verizon Communications both released letters stating their case for why they should be permitted to buy the troubled long-distance carrier.

Qwest's chairman, Richard C. Notebaert, sent a letter to MCI expressing his concern that his company's latest bid for the long-distance company was being ignored. That came a few hours after Ivan G. Seidenberg, Verizon's chairman, made public a 10-page letter that dismissed Qwest's projected cost savings from an MCI purchase as "modern fiction."

The letters were the latest volley in the increasingly bitter fight between the companies for control of MCI. In mid-February, MCI's board agreed to sell the company to Verizon for $6.75 billion, despite an $8 billion bid Qwest had made a few days before. Last Wednesday, Qwest raised its offer to $8.45 billion.

WorldCom figure Roberts settles suit for $4.5 million

The last former WorldCom Inc. board member in a lawsuit brought by investors in the collapsed company agreed yesterday to pay $4.5 million out of his own pocket to settle the claim.

The settlement reached by Bert C. Roberts Jr. brings to $24.75 million the total that 12 former board members are paying personally to settle the class action suit. Insurers for the 12 are kicking in an additional $36 million.

The investors' lawsuit alleges the board members, auditor Arthur Andersen and major investment banks that underwrote WorldCom securities should have known in advance about the fraud that sank WorldCom in 2002.

The major investment banks have already agreed to pay more than $6 billion in settlements. JPMorgan Chase & Co. became the last of the banks to settle, agreeing last week to pay $2 billion.

Jury orders Clear Channel to pay rival $90 million

A federal jury in Chicago yesterday ordered Clear Channel Communications Inc. to pay a rival promoter $90 million for engaging in anti-competitive behavior to land a deal to promote motorcycle races.

Chicago-based Jam Productions Ltd. had accused Clear Channel of illegally using its entertainment industry might to scuttle Jam's bid to promote Supercross dirt-track motorcycle racing at arenas across the country.

Jurors ruled that while Clear Channel did not violate antitrust laws, the company had intentionally interfered with Jam's contract and its business relationship with the American Motorcycle Association. They ordered Clear Channel to pay $17 million in lost profits and $73 million in punitive damages.

Clear Channel said it would appeal the verdict.

Tyco's wire transfers OK to auditors, Robinson says

Tyco International Ltd.'s former treasurer testified yesterday that the company's internal auditors raised no major concerns in a December 2001 audit about how Tyco administered its wire-transfer program.

Under questioning from defense attorneys, Michael Robinson, the Bermuda conglomerate's former treasurer, said the only issues regarding wire transfers raised by the auditors in their December 2001 examination of the treasury department were that the wire-transfer documents weren't locked in a cabinet at the end of each day, he said.

Last week, Robinson testified he executed numerous wire transfers on behalf of ex-top executives L. Dennis Kozlowski and Mark H. Swartz, including money to purchase jewelry and to make personal investments. Robinson said he felt Kozlowski had the authority to make such requests.

Prosecutors have alleged that Kozlowski, Tyco's former chief executive, and Swartz, Tyco's ex-chief financial officer, used internal loan programs at the company as personal lines of credit rather than for their intended purposes.

GM cancels a new line of autos for North America

General Motors Corp. is canceling a new line of rear-wheel-drive cars scheduled for North America in 2008 to concentrate resources on models that will go on sale earlier.

The world's largest automaker is shifting personnel and money from a North American version of models to be built off its "Zeta" platform, spokesman Pat Morrissey said yesterday. GM uses Greek letters to label families of vehicles that share major structural parts, including a chassis.

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