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July 31, 2010 at 11:36 AM
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U.S. regulators take over 5 failed banks

WASHINGTON, July 31 (UPI) -- Federal banking regulators say they closed down five banks in four states in takeovers of struggling financial institutions.

The failures took place in Georgia, Florida, Washington state and Oregon, where the Eugene-based LibertyBank chain was the largest of the casualties.

LibertyBank, which had total deposits of $718.5 million at the end of March, will be assumed by Idaho's Home Federal Bank, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp said.

The Wall Street Journal said the other failed banks included the nine-branch Cowlitz Bank in Washington, state which also operates as Bay Bank; Coastal Community Bank in Panama, Fla., Port Saint Joe-based Bayside Savings Bank and NorthWest Bank & Trust of Acworth, Ga.

The FDIC said the closures brought the total number of bank failures in the United States this year to 108 and cost the FDIC insurance fund almost $335 million.

Report: Nokia Siemans talking with equity

NEW YORK, July 31 (UPI) -- Nokia Siemans Networks is in exploratory talks with buyout firms about a possible $1 billion cash infusion, sources told the Wall Street Journal.

The newspaper said Nokia would part with a minority stake in the company in exchange for the infusion, which would help Nokia Siemans prepare to go public in a few years and also digest the $1.2 billion acquisition of Motorola's telecom equipment unit.

No formal proposals have been put on the table yet. However, sources told the Journal Nokia Siemans has been talking to venture capital high rollers such as KKR, Silver Lake Partners and Blackstone.

The Journal also said any deal would likely be rather complex due to the partnership between Finland's Nokia and Germany's Siemans AG. Both own 50 percent of the company under an agreement that ends in 2013.

A buy-in would require an equity firm to share control with Nokia and Siemans, which the Journal said runs contrary to the usual arrangement in which the equity partner calls the shots.

Tribune Co. amends bankruptcy filing

CHICAGO, July 31 (UPI) -- The Tribune Co., owner of the Chicago Tribune, has filed documents in its bankruptcy reorganization plan about proposed payments to 43 top executives.

Tribune Co. officials gave no price tag on the proposal, but a judge has already approved a bonus plan worth $57 million for about 600 top and middle management employees, the Tribune reported Friday. In addition to the Tribune, the company owns the Los Angeles Times, The Baltimore Sun, the Hartford Courant, the Orlando Sentinel, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and other newspapers, 23 television stations, and other radio and media properties.

Under the proposed plan, the benefits would be paid to the 43 executives if they were asked to resign after the media company emerges from bankruptcy.

If approved, Chief Executive Randy Michaels would receive 2.5 times his salary, a bonus and two years in health insurance benefits, the newspaper reported. Payments would be less for those under Michaels, but none would receive less than 1.5 times their salary, a bonus and 18 months of medical benefits.

The Tribune Co., which has been in bankruptcy since December 2008, filed the plan Thursday, and the severance agreement would have to be approved by firms that would end up controlling the company.

Price spike likely for British groceries

LONDON, July 31 (UPI) -- Dry weather in Britain could increase the price of meat and dairy by as much as 10 percent in the next few months, a commodities publication said.

The hot dry weather has resulted in lower production of grain products used in livestock production, driving the price up, The Grocer, a trade publication, reports.

Animal food costs have increased up to 20 percent in the last year, and financial observers said because inflated food costs are closely linked to inflation, it could result in a "double-dip" recession The Daily Telegraph said.

Additionally, Britain's National Farmer's Union said dry weather has cut production of silage produced for animal consumption by as much as one half.

The cost of food items such as meat and dairy might increase as much as 10 percent before Christmas because of the dry weather, The Grocer said.

"We expect to see an acceleration of food prices and a return to double-digit increases by early next year if the situation doesn't change" Tom Vosa, chief economist for the Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banks, told The Grocer.

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