NBC affiliates back sale to Comcast
NEW YORK, June 19 (UPI) -- Independently owned NBC television stations say they back Comcast Corp.'s planned takeover of General Electric Co.'s NBC Universal.
Their support for the deal came after Comcast agreed to measures designed to protect stations' interests, The Wall Street Journal reported.
A group representing NBC affiliates is to spell out the conditions it wants in a filing Monday with the Federal Communications Commission, said Brian G. Lawlor, the group's chairman and the head of E.W. Scripps Co.'s television division.
The conditions include obligations not to move big sports programs like NFL games to cable channels and not to bypass local stations by sending the NBC signal straight to cable.
The Journal said Comcast agreed to not oppose the measures.
"We made a commitment when we announced the transaction to support over-the-air broadcasting. We will not oppose their conditions because they simply further Comcast's original commitment," said D'Arcy Rudnay, Comcast's senior vice president of corporate communications.
Monday is the deadline for comments on regulatory approval of the Comcast-NBC deal, in which Comcast agreed to pay about $13.75 billion in cash and assets to gain control of NBC Universal.
Local NBC stations had been negotiating with Comcast since December.
Acer chairman bullish on laptop sales
TAIPEI, Taiwan, June 19 (UPI) -- The chairman of Acer Inc., predicted his Taiwan-based company would become the world's leading supplier of notebook computers this year.
J.T. Wang told stockholders in Taipei Friday that revenues in the coming third quarter were expected to increase 10 percent to 15 percent over the second quarter despite rising wages in China and Europe's economic turmoil.
Acer is currently the No. 2 notebook vendor behind Hewlett-Packard Co. and posted first quarter revenues of 162.1 New Taiwan dollars ($5.2 billion).
The Wall Street Journal said Saturday that Acer had been able to ride out the global recession by introducing attractive new products and taking advantage of fairly steady world demand for both laptop and desktop PCs.
"We have responded faster than our competitors to the demand in the market," Wang said. "We are one of a very few that is able to respond to the market when demand stabilized in the latter part of the second quarter because we were prepared."
The Journal said Acer's plans for the immediate future included moving into the Android smart phone market and reducing the number of products based on Windows software.
AstraZeneca Settles Suit for $103 Million
BOSTON, June 19 (UPI) -- U.K. drug giant AstraZeneca said it has agreed to pay $103 million to settle claims it overcharged for some wholesale medicines in the United States.
But while settling a class-action suit, the drug-maker defended its pricing and marketing practices as lawful, The Washington Post reported.
The suit alleged AstraZeneca inflated the average wholesale price of costly prescription drugs in the country.
AstraZeneca spokesman Tony Jewell said Friday the company denies any liability or wrongdoing but saw the settlement as the best way to resolve the case and focus on its business.
"AstraZeneca is committed to adhering to all government laws and regulations concerning drug pricing, including the proper reporting of drug pricing, as required by law," Jewell said.
The Post said the settlement of the lawsuit, originally filed in 2002 over the price of the company's cancer drug Zoladex, needs court approval.
Debt settlement companies under fire
NEW YORK, June 19 (UPI) -- Companies offering debt-ridden Americans relief from rising credit card balances are making dubious promises and driving them deeper into debt, critics say.
State attorneys general and consumer watchdog groups say the debt settlement industry takes advantage of Americans whose lost jobs and lost income is pushing them towards bankruptcy, making dubious promises and fleecing them of their last dollars, The New York Times reported Saturday.
Settlement companies typically charge fees of 15 percent to 20 percent of their customers' credit card balances and generally collect those monies up front, the newspaper said.
Consumers seldom finish settlement programs with credit card balances eliminated, and are often in worse shape with severely damaged credit ratings, hounded by collection agencies and facing lawsuits from creditors, critics say.
"They take advantage of vulnerable people," Linda Robinson of Kansas City said. "When you're desperate and you're trying to get out of debt, they take advantage of you."
Robinson paid $4,000 into a special account under the direction of a settlement company. When her credit card company sued her, her account was down to $1,470; the settlement company had collected the rest in fees, the Times reported.
Twenty-one states have brought at least 128 enforcement actions against debt relief companies since 2006, the National Association of Attorneys General says.
"The industry's not legitimate," said Norman Googel, an assistant attorney general in West Virginia. "They're targeting a group of people who are already drowning in debt. We're talking about middle-class and lower middle-class people who had incomes, but they were using credit cards to survive."